By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XL: Coincidence

Cara Soror,

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

When I was writing that letter about prophecy, I was hot and bothered all the time by my faithful sentinel, the well-greaved Hoplite that stands at the postern of my consciousness, ready to challenge every thought—and woe to the intruder who cannot give the countersign!  This time the dear old ruffian thought the matter serious enough to report Higher Up.  "It is put plainly enough, emphatically enough, incontrovertibly enough" was the gist of his communication "that the first and most irretrievable trick of the enemy is to dupe you into passing Captain Coincidence as 'Friend,' whereas he is naturally the most formidable of all your foes when it comes to a question of proof."

Quite right, Sergeant-Major!  But it is not only about prophecy, but about all sorts of things, in particular, of course, the identification of angels and similar problems.

Well, we have captured quite a few lads of the company of Captain Coincidence; let us have them up for examination and learn what we can about their weapons and other warlike matters!

I take our first prisoner from Magick.

The most famous novel of Fielding is called Tom Jones.  It happened that FRATER PERDURABO was staying in a hotel in London.  He telephoned a friend named Fielding at the latter's house, and was answered by Mr. Fielding's secretary, who said that his employer had left the house a few minutes previously, and could only be reached by telephoning a certain office in the City at between 11 o'clock and a quarter past.  FRATER PERDURABO had an appointment at 11 o'clock with a music-hall star, the place being the entrance to a theatre.  In order to remind himself, he made a mental note that, as soon as he saw the lady, he would raise his hand and say, before greeting her: 'Remind me that I must telephone at once to Fielding,'  when he met her.  He did this, and she advance toward Him with the same gesture, and said in the same breath, 'Remind me that I have to telephone to Tom Jones'— the name of a music-hall agent employed by her.

Here comes another, this time completely crazy!  Nothing "Literary" about it; no sense anywhere; a pure freak.

A friend of mine, A, rang up a friend of hers, B, at her flat in Holland Park, some 3 or 4 miles west, and a p'int to the Nor'rard, of Piccadilly Circus.  After the usual series of "they don't answer", "line's engaged", "unobtainable", "line's out of order", "line's temporarily disconnected at the subscriber's request", an appeal to "Supervisor" got her connected instantly.  Yet another girl friend, C, appears in, and vanishes from, the story; she said "Oh, what a pity, you've just missed her; she went out five minutes ago.  I think she'll be back in an hour's time, try then."

A waited impatiently, and rang up once more.  Again the series of nonsense-difficulties about getting the connection.  At last the answer came.  This time yet one more girl friend D.  "Oh, what a pity!  You've just missed her; she left the box not five minutes ago."  "Box," screamed A, "what box?  Have I got mixed up in a Trunk Murder?" "Why, this box," replied D, calmly.  "What — — box?" shouted A.  "Isn't that her flat?"  "Her flat! are you crazy?  This is a call-box in Shaftesbury Avenue."  Collapse of A's confidence in the sanity of Nature.

One may note that there was no similarity in the names of the exchanges, or in the numbers.

It is the most grotesquely impossible case of "wrong number" that ever came my way.

Now for one or two oddities.  Recently, needing to relax, I borrowed three "thrillers" from different sources.  In every case, the plot turned on two men being so alike that no one could tell them apart.  (Rupert of Hentzau, John Chilcote, M.P., Melander's Millions.)

I traveled from Louisville to Detroit by a railroad whose nickname was the "Big Four", my object being some business connected with my Book 4.  The name of my express was the "Big Four"—it left from No. 4 platform at 4 p.m.  My sleeping berth was No. 4 in Car No. 4; and my ticket was No. 44,444. I ought to have been April 4, I suppose; but it wasn't.

Last week a letter from me appeared in the Sunday Dispatch with regard to the Everest Mystery of 1921.  I expressed my view that the two lost climbers, last seen on an easy snow-slope near the summit, had simply been blown into the air by one of the sudden gusts of incredible fierce winds which are common at those heights, and dashed to earth perhaps a mile away.

After reading this, I went to a friend's room to borrow a book, picked up her Shakespeare's Histories, and, opening it at random, came upon:

They that stand high have many blasts to shake them,
And if they fall, they dash themselves to pieces.

Richard III, Act I, Sc. 3.

Now here's a story that's too good to lose; not the mistiest phantasm of an ideogram how to class it; for one thing, it's chock-a-block with moral lessons and economic theories and political summats; but there's coincidence in it somewhere, and under coincidence down it shall go. Even if only by coincidence.

From 1895 e.v. onwards I dealt with Colin Lunn.

"Of all the tobacconists under the sun,
There is none, there is none, like the great Colin Lunn—"

of Sidney Street, Cambridge.  When I started round the world, alas for fidelity!  I began to forget him.  By 1906 e.v. the operation was practically complete.

In '42 e.v. I spent a few days with friends in Cambridge.  Sauntering along K.P. (King's Parade to you, madam!) on my way back to the station with half an hour or so to kill, I thought I would pop in to Lunn's new shop there, and pass the time of day.  He might have something to take my fancy.  So I did.  Needless to say, I didn't know the shopman from Adam, as he did not offer me a view of his identification mark.  I asked after old friends; we gossiped of old times and new; presently he observed, putting a hand under the counter: "I think this is yours sir." "How do you know who I am?  I've never seen you before."  "Oh, yes sir, I was the odd-job boy at the old Sidney Street shop; I remember you quite well."  By this time there lay on the counter a strange familiar-unfamiliar object—a pipe that I had left for some minor repair before hurrying off to the East 37 years before!  I am smoking it now.

And you can draw your own beastly conclusion!

Here is a last, a passing strange account of a coincidence—or should it come under "Answers to Prayer."

A young enthusiastic "Heaven Born" (=I.C.S.)* parlous pious, was engaged to an exquisite chaste damosel in Lutterworth.  Praised and promoted by his appreciative chiefs in Bombay, he felt his future sure enough to go home on leave, marry her, and bring her out to India.  At their parting, she had given him a ring; naturally, he set great store by it." But the climate had thinned him; it was loose; playing with it as he talked with a friend on the ship, it slipped from his finger, and fell into the harbour." He suppressed an expression of annoyance.  "Well that's past praying for," laughed the friend—unhappily an infidel, not a true friend at all.  The young man stiffened.  "It is?" he answered solemnly and emphatically; "We shall see."  And he retired to his cabin to lay his grief before the Lord.

The ship arrived at Aden without incident.  While she was coaling, it was the idle habit of some sailors to bait a hook with a large piece of pork, and fish for sharks. An hour later they caught a fine specimen, and hauled it aboard.  They cut it open.  No ring.

I hope you don't think I'm letting my pen run away with me:

"Pens!  Good Lord,
    Who knows if you drive them or they drive you?"

* Indian Civil Servant.

No, I have not forgotten that I am here to instruct as well as to amuse: also, to make certain observations which will, I flatter myself, be rather new to you.

I plunge headlong.

Everything that happens, no matter what, is an inconceivably improbable coincidence.  You remember how you had to begin when you first came to me for help.  I said to you, "Here are you, and no other person, come to see me, and no other person, in this room, and no other room, at this time, and not other time.  Hod did that come about?"  The answer to that question is the first entry in your Magical Diary: and, with a slightly different object in view, the first step in the practice of Liber Thisharb and the acquisition of Magical Memory.

Why, hang it all; the events of the last hour, even, might have gone just an infinitesimally little bit different, and the interview would not have taken place as it did. Consider then, that factors stretching back into Eternity—all the factors there are!—have each one contributed in its degree to bringing this interview about.  What a fantastic improbability!  Yet here we are.

Chance blindly rules the Universe.  But what is Chance?  And where does purpose intervene?  To what extent?

I shall now conduct you, no less firmly than Mr. E. Phillips Oppenheim, to Monte Carlo.

(Excuse me!  I was just called to the telephone.  Somebody of whose existence I was not aware has fallen ill in Ireland—and bang went my plans for tomorrow.)

You walk quietly into the Casino; it seems to you that the excitement is even more noticeable than usual.  You see a friend at the table "Here in the nick of time!" he gasps.  "Black has just turned up for the 24th time running."  You press forward to plank the maximum on Red.  The wheel spins; Black again! "Forty thousand she-devils in the belfry of St. Nicholas Rocambole-de-Ronchonot!"

"But --- but" (you stammer when spirits of hartshorn have revived you)  "in the whole history of the tables a colour has never turned up more than 24 times running!"

My poor friend, what has that got to do with it?  True, from the start it is countless millions to 1 that there will not be a run of 24 on the red or the black; but the probability on any single spin (ignoring zero) is always one to one.  The black compartments do not contract because the ball has fallen into any one of them.

Anyone who gambles at all is either a dilettante, a crook, or a B.F.  If you could get the B.F.'s to understand the very elementary mathematics set forth above, good-night to gambling!  And a good riddance, at that!  Well, there is one advantage in the system; it does help the intelligent man to steal a march on his neighbours!

In all this the important point for my present purpose is to show you how entirely this question of probability and coincidence is dependent on your attention.

The sequence B B B B B B B at roulette is most unlikely to occur; but so, in exactly the same degree, is the sequence B R B R R B R or any other sequence.  The one passes unnoticed, the other causes surprise, only because you have in your mind the idea of "a run on black."

Extend this line of thought a little, and link it up with what I was saying about the Magical Diary; you realize that every phenomenon soever is equally improbably, and "infinitely" so.  The Universe is therefore nothing but Coincidence!

How then can any event be more improbable than any other?  Why, very simply.  Go back to Monte; proclaim that at Table No. 3 Black will turn up 7 times running, after this next spin.  (Or, of course, any other series of 7.)  Now you see how Coincidence links up with Prophecy!

A fortiori, Coincidence is destroyed by Purpose, if, wishing to enlighten you on the subject, I write this letter and post it to your address, your receipt of it is no longer Coincidence.  So then coincidence must be entirely both unforeseen and unintentional; in other words, absolutely senseless.  But we have just proved that the Universe is nothing but Coincidence; it therefore is senseless.

So, having established the asymptote of our hyperbolic hyperbola, and shewn it to be asynartete, why should we not acquiesce, and say olive oil?

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours fraternally,


© 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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