(Skoob 1991, 72pp., £24.99) ISBN 1-871438-22-5
A few months before World War II, at the age of fifteen, I chanced upon a book in the Charing Cross Road entitled Magick in Theory and Practice, by Aleister Crowley. It led to my reading as many of Crowley’s writings as I could lay my hands on. They were difficult to come by, and expensive.
My main interest was (and still is) in Oriental Mysticism. When I volunteered for the army, at the age of fifteen, it was with the expectation of being sent to India where I had hopes of finding a guru. But the gods decided otherwise. Within eighteen months of joining, my health broke down and I was discharged.
After convalescence, I struck up a correspondence with Crowley. He had recently published, from 93 Jermyn Street, his sumptuous volume on the Tarot, and was engaged on a new work which he called Aleister Explains Everything. I mention the fact because I was to take down at his dictation some of its contents. This proved of salutary value to me as it provided a unique opportunity for first-hand discussion on matters that concerned both of us. The book was published, long after his death, as Magick Without Tears.
Crowley was almost, but not quite, at the end of the road. His mind remained keen and alert; but ill-health, old age and the air-raids had driven him from London. He was staying at the Bell Inn, in Buckinghamshire, when I first met him in 1944.
Before and after my stay with him at the guest-house in Hastings, where he finally settled, we exchanged letters. I do not think many of mine survived, but some of Crowley’s did, and I have often been urged to publish them. I well remember awaiting the arrival of the envelopes bearing the cartouche of Ankh-af-na-Khonsu with which he usually sealed them in blood-red or grey-blue wax. With a few exceptions the letters were written in his own sharp hand.
I have provided comments in order to give glimpses of a little recorded period of Crowley’s life. Crowley had not entirely pulled out of his London apartment in Jermyn Street, and, inevitably, I was enlisted to assist in the tiresome process of extracting from a long-suffering and unsympathetic landlady his remaining possessions.
Despite my dismal failure to satisfy the Master’s unremitting demands, this period was for me richly rewarding. Personal association with Crowley was a profound initiation if one could dive beneath the surface and seize the luminous prize. I was sometimes able to do this; but I was unable ever to acquire a practical approach to mundane affairs, a lack which so exasperated Crowley.
I am acutely aware of my failure adequately to portray a relationship which was, form the start, unequal in so many ways. He was sixty-nine, and replete with worldly experience; I was twenty, with hardly any.
I have occasionally drawn upon Crowley’s unpublished diaries, and other correspondence, in order to elucidate specific references in the letters, and in so doing I have to thank Crowley’s literary executor. For the design of this book - indeed, for its appearance - I am grateful to my wife, Steffi.