Astron Argon

Spiritual Authority

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

MacGregor Mathers genius was founded with the Golden Dawn. His understanding of Initiation not only gave new Gnosis to the world, but has had an enduring affect on all Magick since then. This proves his authority by way of contact with the Secret Chiefs. Crowley knew this and was for a long time, entirely loyal to Mathers. I wasn’t until Mathers cease to be creative and started down a path of decadence that Crowley would begin to harbor doubts. And after having produced his own new Gnosis, Crowley realized that he was destined to take Mather’s place. And since then, Crowley’s genius has also had an enduring affect on all Magick since then. It is worth quoting here, Crowley’s own account of this:

Some time in the 'seventies or 'eighties, a cipher manuscript was found on a bookstall by a Dr. Woodman, a colleague in magical study of Dr. W. Wynn Westcott. It was beyond their powers to decipher it, though Mrs. Emery (Miss. Florence Farr) told me that a child could have done so. They called in a man named Samuel Liddell Mathers, a scholar and Magician of considerable eminence. The manuscript yielded to his scrutiny. It contained, among minor matters, the rubric of certain rituals of initiation and the true attribution of the Tarot Trumps. This attribution had been sought vainly for centuries. It cleared up a host of Qabbalistic difficulties, in the same was as Einstein's admirers claim that his equations have done in mathematics and physics. The manuscript gave the name and address of an adept Sapiens Dominabitur Astris, a Frääulein Sprengel, living in Germany, with an invitation to write to her if further knowledge was required. Dr. Westcott wrote; and S.D.A. gave him and his two colleagues a charter authorizing them to establish an Order in England. This was done. Soon after, S.D.A. died. In reply to a letter addressed to her, came an intimation from one of her colleagues that they had never approved her policy in permitting open-temple work in England, but had refrained from active opposition from personal respect for her. The writer ended by saying that England must expect no more assistance from Germany; enough knowledge had been granted to enable any English adept to form a Magical Link with the Secret Chiefs. Such competence would evidently establish a right to renewed relations.

Dr. Woodman had died and Mathers forced Dr. Westcott to retire from active leadership of the Order. Mathers, however, was not trusted. He, therefore, announced to the most advanced adepts that he had himself made the Magical Link with the Secret Chiefs; and, at an interview with three of them in the Bois de Boulogne, had been confirmed in the supreme and sole authority as the Visible Head of the Order. The adepts entrusted with this information were required to sign a pledge of personal obedience to Mathers as a condition of advancement in the Order. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction continued. The advancement did not arrive. They suspected that Mathers had no more knowledge to give; and he retorted that, however that might be, he wasn't going to waste it on such hopeless differs. Both positions have much to recommend them to discriminating sympathy.


Early in 1900 I applied to the Second Order in London for the documents to which my initiation in Paris entitled me. They were refused in terms which made it clear that the London body was in open revolt against the Chief, though afraid to declare its intentions. I went to London and discussed the matter with Jones, Baker and Mrs. Emery. Jones saw clearly enough that if Mathers were not the head of the Order and the trusted representative of the Secret Chiefs, there was no Order at all. Baker's position was that Mathers was behaving badly; he was sick of the whole business. Mrs. Emery, the nominal representative of the Chief, was trying to find a diplomatic solution. Her attitude was most serious and earnest and she was greatly distressed by her dilemma. She had thought it best to resign quietly, but received a reply of the most staggering character. The letter is dated February 16th, 1900, and I quote the last two paragraphs in full.

Now, with regard to the Second Order, it would be with the very greatest regret both from my personal regard for you, as well as from the Occult standpoint, that I should receive your Resignation as my Representative in the Second Order in London; but I cannot let you form a combination to make a schism therein with the idea of working secretly or avowedly under Sapere Aude under the mistaken impression that he received an Epitome of the School of the Second Order work from G. H. Soror, Sapiens Dominabitur Astros. For this forces me to tell you plainly (and, understand me well, I can prove to the hilt every word which I here say and more, and were I confronted with S. A., I should say the same) though for the sake of the Order, and for the circumstance that it would mean so deadly a blow to S. A.'s reputation, I entreat you to keep this secret from the "Order," for the present, at least, though you are at perfect liberty to show him this if you think fit, after mature consideration.

He has NEVER been at any time either in personal or written communication with the Secret Chiefs of the order, he having either himself forged or procured to be forged the professed correspondence between him and them, and my tongue having been tied all these years by a Previous Oath of Secrecy to him, demanded by him, from me, before showing me what he had either done or caused to be done or both. You must comprehend from what little I say here the extreme gravity of such a matter, and again I ask you, both for his sake, and that of the Order, not to force me to go further into the subject.

This letter struck at the very heart of the moral basis of her conduct. It put her in the position of having initiated people, for years, on false pretences. She could not drop out and say no more about it. The matter had to be thrashed out.

My own attitude was unhampered by any ethical considerations. I had seen a good deal of Mathers personally. He was unquestionably a Magician of extraordinary attainment. He was a scholar and a gentleman. He had that habit of authority which inspires confidence because it never doubts itself. A man who makes such claims as he did cannot be judged by conventional codes and canons. Ordinary morality is only for ordinary people. For example, assume a Prime Minister who has private information that somebody has discovered, and is cultivating, a new germ by means of which he intends to destroy the nation. To pass a "Short Act" would be to give the alarm and precipitate the disaster. It would be his duty to override the law and put his foot upon the mischief. Then again, the whole of Mathers' conduct might have been in the nature of a test. It might have been his way of asking the adepts whether they had the power of concentrating on the spiritual situation, of giving up for ever all their prejudices.

Anyhow, as far as I was concerned, Mathers was my only link with the Secret Chiefs to whom I was pledged. I wrote to him offering to place myself and my fortune unreservedly at his disposal; if that meant giving up the Abra-Melin Operation for the present, all right.

The result of this offer was recorded as follows:

D.D.C.F. accepts my services, therefore do I rejoice that my sacrifice is accepted. Therefore do I again postpone the Operation of Abra-Melin the Mage, having by God's Grace formulated even in this a new link with the Higher and gained a new weapon against the Great Princes of the Evil of the World. Amen.

I went to Paris, discussed the situation with Mathers and formulated the following proposal for dealing with the refractory "temple".

I. The Second Order to be summoned at various times during two or three days. They to find, on being admitted one by one, a masked man in authority and a scribe. These questions, etc. pass, after pledge of secrecy concerning interview.

A. Are you convinced of the truth of the doctrines and knowledge received in the grade of 5 = 6? Yes or No?
If yes (1) Then their origin can spring from a pure source only?
If no (2) I degrade you to be a Lord of the Paths in the Portal in the Vault of the Adepts.
B. If he reply "yes", the masked man continues: Are you satisfied with the logic of this statement? Do you solemnly promise to cease these unseemly disputes as to the headship of this Order! I for my part can assure you from my own knowledge that D.D.C.F. is really a 7 = 4.
If yes (3) Then you will sing this paper; it contains a solemn reaffirmation of your obligation as a 5 = 6 slightly expanded, and a pledge to support heartily the new regulations.
If no (4) I expel you from this Order.

II. The practice of masks is to be introduced. Each member will know only the member who introduced him.

Severe tests of the candidate's moral excellence, courage, earnestness, humility, refusal to do wrong, to be inserted in the Portal or 5 = 6 ritual.
III. Outer Order to be summoned. Similar regulations to be announced to them. New pledges required that they will not communicate the identity of anybody they happen to have known to any new member.
IV. Vault to be reconsecrated.

This was accepted, and I crossed to London to carry it out. I find an entry in my little book of Magical Rituals which reveals my state of mind.

April 12th, 1900.
I, Perdurabo, as the Temporary Envoy Plenipotentiary of Deo Duce Comite Ferro & thus the Third from the Secret Chiefs of the Order of the Rose of Ruby and the Cross of Gold, do deliberately invoke all laws, all powers Divine, demanding that I, even I, be chosen to do such a work as he has done, at all costs to myself. And I record this holy aspiration in the presence of the Divine Light, that it may stand as my witness.
In Saecula Saeculorum. Amen!

A further complication had suddenly arisen. In Mathers' fatal letter to Mrs. Emery, he wrote that Sapiens Dominabitur Astris was not dead after all; but in Paris, working with him at that very moment. But when I arrived in Paris, Mathers had been rudely undeceived. The woman who claimed to be Sapiens had bolted, with such property of his as she could lay hands on. That such a man could have been so imposed upon seems incredible. But he told me that she certainly possessed knowledge which only Sapiens had, and also that she had told him every detail of a very private conversation which he had once had with Mme. Blavatsky at Denmark Hill. In the upshot, she proved to be one Mmme. Horos. In the following year she was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude for outrages on young girls. She had in some way used the rituals of the Order which she had stolen from Mathers to entice them to their doom.

My arrival in London as the envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Mathers put the cat among the chickens. My identity was very soon discovered and a typhoon began to rage in the teacup. The rebels resorted to all sorts of lawless and violent acts, and spread the most stupidly scandalous stories, not only about me, but about the few others who remained loyal to Mathers. They did not even scruple to slander a young girl of perfect purity, by imputing to her an improper intimacy with me. It was especially dastardly, as she was engaged to be married. To this day I cannot understand how people like W. B. Yeats should not have repressed such methods in the sternest way and insisted that the fight be fought with fir weapons. They had seized the furniture of the temple and the vault. I applied to a police magistrate for tit to be handed over. On the hearing of the summons we were amazed to find Mr. Gill, K.C., one of the most famous men at the bar, briefed to appear in a police court to squabble over a few pounds' worth of paraphernalia! The money was furnished by Miss. Horniman, daughter of the Mazawattee tea man, and later of Manchester Theatre fame. She had been expelled by Mathers some time previously.

I knew enough of campaigning to decline joining battle against such heavy artillery as Mr. Gill. Luckily, the value of the property had been sworn at a sum beyond the limit with which a police magistrate can deal. The summons was therefore withdrawn and Mr. Gill kept his eloquence and his fee to himself. There was in reality nothing worth fighting for. The rebel camp broke up in anarchy. They issued various hysterical manifestos, distinguished by confusion of thought, inaccuracy of statement, personal malice, empty bombast and ignorance of English. One error is worth rescuing from oblivion. "Nothing in the above resolutions shall effect our connection with the Rosicrucian order." The poor darlings meant affect.

They went on squabbling amongst themselves for a few months and then had the sense to give up playing at Magick. Their only survivor is Arthur Edward Waite, who still pretends to carry on the business, though he has substituted a pompous, turgid rigmarole of bombastic platitudes for the neophyte ritual, so that the last spark of interest is extinct for ever. Mathers, of course, carried on; but he had fallen. The Secret Chiefs cast him off; he fell into deplorable abjection; even his scholarship deserted him. He published nothing new and lived in sodden intoxication till death put and end to his long misery. He was a great man in his way. May he have expiated his errors and resumed his labours, with the advantage of experience!

Summer was now at hand and the wanderlust reasserted itself in me. There was no point in my going back to Boleskine till the following Easter. As it happened, Mathers — to whom I returned to report progress — had two guests, members of the Order. They had just comeback from Mexico. The fancy took me to go there. I wanted in particular to climb the great volcanoes. So, late in June 1900, I sailed for New York.

The problem that sits with us today is that after the death of Crowley, Magick itself (no less Thelema!) has no centralized authority any longer. That is, unless we consider what bestows authority. And here, Crowley is quite clear. In order for a human voice to claim authority, it must prove connection with the Secret Chiefs both by the production of new Gnosis and that Gnosis having a verifiable affect on the practice of Magick. But in this age of mass communication and the celebration of the individual in our culture, do we really need one authoritative figure to trump all other voices?

The production of new Gnosis is in actuality the practice of prophecy. And true prophecy speaks authoritatively. But today, the enlightened being is not as rare as in the times when Jesus, Buddah, Moses and Krsna were presented to the world. Indeed, Crowley and Mathers show how two enlightened beings incarnated in successive generations as juxtaposed to some 500 years between Jesus and Buddha, for example. And it seems to me that there are more than several enlightened beings walking on the Earth at this moment. We might even refer to them as the Secret Chiefs; hiding themselves in the cloak of their countrymen (as the Rosicrucians practiced).

The Holy Books of Thelema are at present our centralized source of spiritual authority. And the ‘Comment’ in Liber AL bids us not to make claims beyond the words of Ankh-af-na-Khonsu; the scribe who penned Liber AL. In other words, there can be no official interpretation of the Holy Books; we each being charged with interpreting for ourselves, as individuals. Indeed, we might even assert that for the serious student of Thelema, a formal interpretation should be penned; using that first form of Magick—writing.

So along with the dictum wherein it is proclaimed that “you are God,” let it be known that you are your own spiritual authority. Look to none other for this, but value all of humanity as your spiritual instructor. And take responsibility for your own being. Look to the stars for delight and the source of your inspiration quietly (the practice of Silence) that you might hear the whispers of your own inherent divinity. And then dare (another power of the Sphinx) to become that “center of pestilence.” In this circumstance, you will find yourself extricated from the herd; standing as lamp against their darkness.

Love is the law, love under will.