By Aleister Crowley

Chapter LXI: Power and Authority

Cara Soror,

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

Thanks very much for your last letter.  I expected no less.  As soon as anybody gets into a position of authority, even on a very small scale, their troubles begin on a very large one.

Imagine, if you can, what I have been through in the last quarter of a century or more.  My subordinates are always asking me for advancement in the Order; they think that if they were only members of the 266th degree everything in the garden would be lovely.  They think that if they only possessed the secrets of the 148th degree they would be able to perform all those miracles which at present escape them.

These poor fish!  They do not understand the difference between Power and Authority.  They do not understand that there are two kinds of degrees, altogether different.

For instance, in the theory of the Church of Rome a bishop is a person on whom has been conferred the magical power to ordain priests.  He may choose a totally unworthy person for such ordination, it makes no difference; and the priest, however unworthy he may be, has only to go through the correct formulæ which perform the miracle of the Mass, for that miracle to be performed.  This is because in the Church we are dealing with a religious as opposed to a magical or scientific qualification.  If the Royal Society elected a cobbler, as it could, it would not empower the New Fellow to perform a boiling-point determination, or read a Vernier.

In our own case, though Our authority is at least as absolute as that of the Pope and the Church of Rome, it does not confer upon me any power transferable to others by any act of Our will.  Our own authority came to Us because it was earned, and when We confer grades upon other people Our gift is entirely nugatory unless the beneficiary has won his spurs.

To put it in a slightly different form of words: Any given degree is, as it were, a seal upon a precise attainment; and although it may please Us to explain the secret or secrets of any given degree or degrees to any particular person or persons, it is not of the slightest effect un- less he prove in his own person the ability to perform those functions which all We have done is to give him the right to perform and the Knowledge how to perform.

The further you advance in the Order the more will you find yourself pestered by people who have simply failed to understand this point of Magical theory.

Another thing is that the business of teaching itself is a very tricky one; even such simple matters as travelling on the astral plane are not to be attained by any amount of teaching unless the pupil has both the capacity and the energy as well as the theoretical and intellectual ability to carry out successfully the practices.  (I have already said a good deal about this in my letter on Knack.)

I have thought it most important that you should impress upon everybody these points.  It is absolutely pitiful to watch the vain struggle of the incompetent; they are so earnest, so sincere, so worthy in every way of every possible reward and yet they seem unable to advance a single step.

There is another side to this matter which is really approximating to the criminal.  There are any number of teachers and masters and bishops and goodness knows what else running around doing what is little better than peddling grades and degrees and secrets.  Such practices are of course no better than common fraud.

Please fix it firmly in you mind that with Us any degree, any position of authority, any kind of rank, is utterly worthless except when it is merely a seal upon the actual attainment or achievement.

It must seem to you that I am beating a dead dog, that it is little better than waste of time for me to keep on insisting, as I am now doing, upon what any ordinary person would think was patent to the meanest intelligence; but as a matter of plain fact the further you advance in the Order, and the more people you get to know, the more you find this attitude, sometimes absurd and sometimes abominable, getting up and kicking you in the face.

This is one of the reasons why the older I grow and the more experience I have of human nature, the more am I convinced of the wisdom of the Chiefs of the A.'. A.'., where association with any other person except your immediate superior or the one of whom you are yourself in charge is discouraged in every possible way.

There are of course exceptions. It is necessary, though regrettably so, for personal instruction in the practices to be given or received.  For all that, I wish I could show you 200 or 300 letters that I have received in the last twenty years or so: they tell me without a shadow of doubt that anything like fraternization leads only to mischief.  When you wish instruction from your superior, it should be for definite points and nothing else.  Any breach of this convention is almost certain to lead to one kind of trouble or another.  It may in fact be regarded as a defect of concentration if communication between any two members of the Order should take place, except in cases of necessity.

I know that it must seem hard to the weaker brethren of the Order that we should make so little appearance of success in the Great Work to which we are all pledged.  It is so universal a convention that success should be measured by members.  People like to feel that they have hundreds of Lodges from whom they can obtain assistance in moments of discouragement.

But a far truer and deeper satisfaction is found when the student has contentedly gone on with his work all by his own efforts.  Surely you have had sufficient example in these letters, where in moments of despair one suddenly awakes to the fact the despite all appearances one has been watched and guarded from a higher plane.  I might say, in fact, that one such experience of the secret guardianship of the Chiefs of the Order is worth a thousand apparently sufficient witnesses to the facts.

I would have you lay this closely to your heart, dear Sister, and moreover always to keep in mind what I have written in this letter so that you may be able to recognise when the occasion arises how much better evidence of the power and intelligence of the Order is this to being constantly cheered up along the difficult way by incidents such as it is possible to explain by what might be considered normal circumstances.

Finally, let me insist that it is a definite symptom of Magical ill-health when the craving for manifestation of that power and intelligence come between the worker and his work.

Love is the law, love under will.



© 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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