By Aleister Crowley

Chapter LX: Knack

Cara Soror,

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

I am very glad that it has not been necessary in all this long correspondence with you, to discuss the question of Knack.  You seem to be specially gifted; you were able to get the results directly from following out the instructions, and I am glad that it is through you, on behalf of other people, to whom you have communicated these instructions, that this letter has become necessary.

When Otto Morningstar was trying (with indifferent success) to teach me how to play French Billiards in Mexico City I found one particular difficulty, and that was how to play the massé shot.  He kept on explaining and explaining and demonstrating and demonstrating, and none of it seemed any good.  I understood intellectually, well enough; but somehow or other it never came off.  Presently he said that he guessed he knew what was the matter. Although I had the whole thing perfect in my mind I had not made the link between my mind, my eye and my hand, and what I must do was not to go to him for teaching, of which I had had already enough and more than enough.  He told me if I went on trying it would happen quite suddenly and unexpectedly one day that I found I could do it.  This was particularly decent of him because it was in direct contradiction with his financial interest.  But he was an all-round good man.

So I cut him out so far as the massé shot was concerned and redoubled my practice of it.  What he said came out right; one day I found that I had acquired the knack of it.

Now with these semi-pupils of yours the same thing probably applies.

The point you raise in particular as baffling them is the getting on to the astral plane.  It is not much good explaining why the failure occurs, or at what point it occurs; the only thing that is any use is for the pupil to go on and on and on eternally.  He must find out for himself where the snag is, and he must continue his experiment until he acquires the knack.

All this should be perfectly obvious; the same sort of thing applies to every kind of game which you know.  There is a particular knack for instance in putting.  It is not that your calculations are wrong, it is not that your stance is wrong, it is not that your grip is wrong, it is that for some reason or other you fail to co-ordinate all these various factors in the problem; and sooner or later the moment comes when it appears to you quite natural to succeed in getting out of the body, or in opening the eyes on the astral plane, or in getting hold of the particular form of elemental energy which has until that moment escaped you.

I have mentioned the question of astral journeys because that is one which in your experience, as indeed it has been in mine, is the one that most frequently occurs.

I do not know why it is that people should get so easily discouraged as they do.  I can only suggest that it is because they are touching so sensitive a spot in their spiritual and magical organisation that it upsets them; they feel as if they were completely hopeless in a much more serious way than if it was a matter of learning some trick in some such game as chess or billiards.

Of course, the worst of it is that failure in these early stages is liable to destroy their confidence in the teacher, and I think it would be a very wise plan on your part to warn them about that.

I ought incidentally to mention that this sudden illumination—that is not quite the right word but I cannot think of a better one—is quite different to the sudden confidence which takes hold of one in the Yoga practices, the more I think of it the more I feel that the question of sensitiveness is of the greatest importance.

In Yoga practices one does not, at least as far as my experience goes, come against the delicacy that one does in all magical and astral practices.  The reason for what is, I think, quite obvious.  All the Yoga practices are ultimately of the protective type, whereas with magical and astral practices one is exposing oneself to the contact of exterior (or apparently exterior) forces.  In neither case however is there any sort of reason at all for discouragement; and as I said above the cure in all cases is apparently the same.

In one way or another the veil is rent, the pupil becomes the master, and the reason for that is really rather beyond my analysis so far as that has gone at present.  I do not know whether it is some kind of awakening of some faculty of the magical self, though that seems to me the simplest and most probable explanation; but in any case there is no doubt about the nature of the experience, and there can be no difficulty about the recognition of it when it occurs.

Now, dear Sister, I hope that this letter may be of real use to you in dealing with those difficult semi-pupils.  In particular I hope that you will make a point of insisting on how encouraging this doctrine is.  Your pupils must not calculate; that indeed is one point where the magical record is rather a hindrance than otherwise.

It reminds me of the story of the Psychologist who wanted to judge the difference in temperament between an Englishman, as Scotsman and an Irishman, in judging the amount of Whisky in a bottle in the next room.  They had to go in, report, and come back, and tell him what they thought about it.  He filled it 50% with great accuracy.

The Irishman came back fairly cheerful; he rubbed his hands; "Well, there's half a bottle left, your honour."

When the Scotsman came back his face was full of gloom: "I'm afraid," he says, "that half a bottle has gone."

Then the Englishman had his turn.  He came in all over smiles, rubbing his hands, and said: "There's not a drop left, so that's that."

Moral—Be English!

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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