myself made extensive and elaborate studies of the effects of
indulgence in stimulants and narcotics. (See my
Psychology of Hashish, Cocaine,
Green Goddess, The Diary of a Drug Fiend
etc.) I have a vast quantity of unpublished data. I am convinced
that personal idiosyncrasy counts for more in this matter than
all the other factors put together. The philosophical phlegmatic
temperament of the Chinese finds opium sympathetic. But the
effect of opium on a vivacious, nervous, mean, cowardly
Frenchman, on an Englishman with his congenital guilty
conscience or on an American with his passion for pushing
everything to extremes is very different; the drug is almost
certain to produce disaster.
—The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.
New York, NY. Hill and Wang, 1969. Page 490.
the Yi King in May of 1922 what would happen to me in
England, whither I was bound. I got the 21st Hexagram, which
means the open manifestation of one’s purpose. I was, in fact,
able to re-enter public life after years of seclusion. It means
“union by gnawing”, which I understood as bidding me to expect
to spend my time in persevering efforts to establish relations
with various people who could be useful to me, but not to expect
to drop into success or to find the obstacles insuperable. This,
too, came true. The comment in the Yi King promises
successful progress and advises recourse to law. My progress was
beyond my utmost hopes and I found myself forced to begin
several lawsuits. The further comment describes the successive
phases of the affair. The first phase shows its subject fettered
and without resource. During my first month in England I was
penniless, without proper clothes to wear, and obliged to walk
miles to save the cost of a telephone call or an omnibus. In the
second phase one suddenly finds everything easy. All one’s plans
succeed. This, too, occurred. The third phase shows a man
getting to grips with the real problems; he meets some rebuffs,
has some disappointments, but makes no mistakes. The third stage
of my campaign could not be better described. In phase four one
gets down to work at one’s task, aided by financial advances and
contracts to do work of the kind one wants. This was fulfilled
by my being commissioned to write The Diary of a Drug Fiend
and the present book, as well as several things for the
— The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.
New York, NY. Hill and Wang, 1969. Pages 630-631.
string was to publish new books. Sullivan had suggested my
trying Grant Richards, firstly with a plan for marketing the
existing stock, and secondly with a proposal to write my
memoirs. He promised to put in a good word for me as he knew
Grant Richards well and was influential as being a man of sound
business and literary judgment. I therefore called and made my
proposals. But after some consideration, Grant Richards could
not see his way to accept my terms. I think we were both
reluctant to part; and one night I was inspired to try him with
a third artificial minnow. I would write a shocker on the
subject which was catering to the hysteria and pururience of the
sex-crazed public: the drug traffic insanity. It provided a much
needed variation from the “white slave” traffic. I proposed as a
title The Diary of a Drug Fiend and sketched out a
synopsis of its contents on a sheet of notepaper. This was
mostly bluff. I had not really any clear idea of my story. I
took this round to Grant Richards, who said it was not in his
line. I asked him to suggest a likely firm. He said Hutchinson
or Collins. Neither name meant anything to me. I gave Collins
the first chance simply because he was on my way home.
Invited to interview the responsible man, I found myself
wondering who he was — I had surely met him before. He shared my
feeling and was the first to discover the source. Over fifteen
years earlier he had been on the staff of a paper called
What’s On belonging to my old acquaintance Robert Haslam and
at one time edited by poor crazy Dartnell.
The gods had certainly started a new drama. The accident of this
man, J. D. Beresford his name is, being the literary advisor of
Collins probably made all the difference to the fate of the
book. The synopsis was accepted enthusiastically and I obtained
the pledges of money and advances, as per the “Yi” forecast, to
the extend of a sixty-pound advance and a contract on much
better terms than a new author could have hoped.
I contracted to deliver the manuscript within a month. My idea
was to rush the book through as a suitable for holiday reading.
I wired to Paris for the Ape, who hurried over. We sat down at
once to work. She takes my dictation in long hand, and it was
therefore some “stunt” to have written the 121,000 words in 27
days, 12 3/4 hours. Mrs Marshall, the best typist I ever
employed — she had worked for me off and on since ’98 — could
hardly believe her eyes as one stack of manuscript came tumbling
on the top of another. It gave me a chance to boost the Law of Thelema. I was able to show how the application of the
principles increases efficiency as the profane deem impossible.
Beresford was delighted with the manuscript and in high hopes of
making a big hit. Unfortunately, my plan for publishing the book
in August was not adopted. For various reasons they kept it
hanging about till November. This annoyed me greatly. I expected
its publication to arouse a tempest in the teapot around which
the old women of criticism nod and talk scandal. I wanted to be
on the spot when the fur began to fly, so as to give as good as
I got. However, the gods have their own ideas.
— The Confessions of Aleister
New York, NY. Hill and Wang, 1969. Pages 895-896.
The Diary of a Drug Fiend and my autohagiography I had
contracted with Collins for the publication of Simon Iff.
By this they pledged themselves to pay me an advance equivalent
to the subscription sales of The Drug Fiend. They
promised to let me have this before November 9th.
— The Confessions of Aleister
New York, NY. Hill and Wang, 1969. Page 910.
Mr. Crowley has not the literary fascination of a De Quincey or
the power and stark realism of a Zola. His most conspicuous
gift is an effervescent imagination, an exuberant diction; and
in the rhapsodies, despairs, and regeneration of Sir Peter and
Lady Pendragon, ardent devotees of cocaine and “heroin,”
retailed in a “Paradiso” (by Sir Peter), an Inferno (by his
wife), and a “Purgatorio” (by Sir Peter), we certainly do not
reach, though he avers it to be a :true story,” any impression
of a real human experience. They roam about Paris and Europe,
palpitating at first with “internal ecstasy and the intoxicating
sense that the whole world admired and envied us.” They “had
sprung in one leap to be coterminous with the Universe,” and so
on’ then they sank into “boundless bliss” but drifting “down the
dark and sluggish river of inertia towards the stagnant,
stinking morass of insanity”; and through the horrors of despair
they reach at last the Abbey of Thelema, where diminution of
doses and dissertation on life and its meanings, control of the
will, and the ‘credo’ of a Gnostic and a Catholic Church of
Light, Life, Love and Liberty give them mastery of the will and
of degenerating emotion; and the belief that there is nothing in
nature, even drugs, which cannot be used for our benefit. The
book teems both with an immense fertility of incidents and idea;
and with an amazingly rich crop of rhetoric. It is impossible
to say that at any moment in the career of Peter and his wife do
we seem to be in touch with reality. It is all a phantasmagoria
of ecstasies, despairs, and above all verbiage.
—The Times Literary Supplement, 16 November 1922.
“I got another packet and put it in my mouth. He went
wild and clutched me by the hair, and forced open my jaws with
his finger and thumb. I struggled and kicked and scratched, but
he was too strong. He got it out and put it in his own mouth.
Then he hit me in the face as I sat.” This extract is from the
diary of a young woman who has the cocaine habit. As she starts
by chanting “O thou fragrance of sweet flowers, that art wafted
over blue fields of air! I adore thee, Evoe! I adore thee,
I.A.O.!” there seems a slight falling off in her style—which
only goes to bear out the argument of the whole and to show that
these good drugs, as masters, do not exactly improve our
manners, whatever they may do as servants. Mr. Crowley suddenly
leaves these slightly disgusting surroundings, and removes his
young people to a wondrous place of treatment mainly by
addresses and incantation. He declares that the place exists on
this carnal globe, and is willing to act as an intermediary
should any reader habitually breakfast on heroin and desire to
return to bacon and eggs. There is a certain compelling power
about the descriptions of degradation. They have a truer ring
than the ultra-fantastic patches—although these are credible
enough as a rough translation into the speech of every day from
a language only heard and understood under frightful and
inhuman, if ecstatic conditions.
—The Observer, 10 December 1922.
Unfamiliarity with the effects of habit-forming drugs is a
severe handicap to the reviewer of such a book as Aleister
Crowley’s “The Diary of a Drug Fiend.” He lacks a criterion by
which to judge of its truthfulness. However, Aleister Crowley
assures us that it is a true story, rewritten only so far as was
necessary to conceal personalities, and surely Mr. Crowley
should know. Let us then take him at his word, with such mental
reservations as will obtrude themselves in spite of our earnest
desire to believe.
There are stranger things than “dope” in “The Diary of a Drug
Fiend.” One of them is the dedication:
Virgin Guardian of the Sangraal in the Abbey of Thelema in “Telepylus,”
ASTARTE LULU PANTHEA
its youngest member, I dedicate this story of its Herculean
labours toward releasing Mankind from every form of bondage.
This is not, as one might be tempted to believe, a part of the
ravings of a drug fiend. It is a clue to the real character of
the book, which is quite obviously intended as a tract for the
cult which has its headquarters in the “Abbey of Thelema.” The
chief doctrine of this cult is embraced in the words: “Do what
thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” The high priest of
this cult is one Basil King Lamus, known at the Abbey of Thelema
as the “Big Lion.” Apart of his mission in life appears to be
the reclaiming of those who have fallen victims to the drug
The Diary is divided into three books. In the first,
appropriately called “Paradiso,” Sir Peter Pendragon tells how,
during a wild night in London, he took his first sniff of
cocaine, and how he fell in love with a girl who went by the
name of “Unlimited Lou.” Lou was already a “snowbird,” in other
words a user of cocaine. On the spur of the moment they married
and went to Paris on a “cocaine honeymoon.” If we may believe
Sir Peter, there is no happier form of honeymoon—while it
lasts. The time came, however, when cocaine seemed to lose the
power to lift them up to the heights. They experimented with
heroin and found that its effect was quite different, but very
agreeable. Tiring of Paris, they went to Capri, and it was
there that they fell into the hands of a clever swindler who
robbed them of all their ready cash and their jewels, and worst
of all, of their supply of drugs. They were obliged to cable to
London for money and, until it came, to suffer for lack of their
usual stimulants. The first book ends with their decision to
return to England.
In the second book, “Inferno,” it is Lou who keeps the diary.
She tells how they fell lower and lower, living in filthy
lodgings in London, not because they could afford no better, but
because their eccentricities of conduct would attract less
attention there. Later on they went to live at Sir Peter’s
ancestral home, Barley Grange, first assuring themselves a
plentiful supply of cocaine and heroin. At Barley Grange they
experimented with devil worship, Sir Peter’s deceased
grandfather having thoughtfully fitted up a room in the Grange
with all the paraphernalia necessary for that purpose. Their
crazy antics drove all the servants from the house, and the two
drug fiends continued to live there in indescribable filth.
Their meals, when they cared for any, were brought in from a
near-by inn. Then Sir Peter shot himself presumably by
accident, and in the excitement of nursing him, Lou forgot all
about drugs. The result was that by the time Sir Peter
recovered from his wound, they were both apparently cured of the
drug habit. But it did not last. They returned to London and
fell lower than before.
The third book, “Purgatorio,” is written by Sir Peter. In it he
tells how he and his wife, believing themselves to be hopelessly
in the grip of the drug habit, had decided to commit suicide and
how they were rescued by King Lamus, who carried them away to “Telepylus.”
He cured them by developing the “True Will,” that is to say, by
helping them to find something in which they are more interested
than they are in drugs. They found that the doctrine, “Do what
thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” was to be taken quite
literally. It meant, among other things, that they might have
all the cocaine and heroin they wanted. The only condition was
that they should keep charts and record on these charts how much
they took and why they took it. By adroit questioning King
Lamus learned that Sir Peter’s greatest interest in life was
mechanics, particularly as applied to airplanes, and that Lou’s
one ambition was to be a true helpmeet to her husband. So Sir
Peter was set to work inventing a helicopter, while Lou looked
after his comfort, and there you are. It’s easy to cure a drug
addict when you know how.
As might be expected, there is a great deal of mysticism mixed
up with the cult practiced by the members of the Abbey of
Thelema. Here, for example, is a midnight invocation recited by
King Lamus, the Big Lion. He stood facing the north and
accompanied his speech with a series of complicated gestures.
In a deep solemn voice, he said:
Hail to thee who art Ra in thy silence, even unto thee who art
Kephra the beetle, that travelest under the heavens in thy bark
in the midnight hour of the sun. Tahuti standeth in his
splendour at the prow. Haul unto thee from the abodes of
Does it mean anything? Ask Mr. Aleister Crowley. He tells us
in a note prefacing the third book of the Diary that
The Abbey of Thelema at “Telepylus” is a real place. It and
its customs and members, with the surrounding scenery, are
accurately described. The training there given is suited to all
conditions of spiritual distress, and for the discovery and
development of the “True Will” of any person. Those interested
are invited to communicate with the author of this book.
And this is why the reviewer classes “The Diary of a Drug Fiend”
as a tract.
New York Times, 29 July 1923.
impression is somewhat current that the use of narcotics is
stimulating to the creation of great literature. I must confess
that previous to the reading of “The Diary of a Drug Fiend” I
was imbued with the same delusion. I possessed vague hopes of
some day filling up on hasheesh or the like and being inspired
into dashing off something weird, fantastic, exquisite. But the
diary of this drug fiend is dull, commonplace, uninspired. It
seems to me now that I could do as well upon Spearmint.
One should not judge this book from the
standpoint of literature, but rather from that of anti-narcotic
propaganda. As such it should be mildly successful. The author
protests unceasingly that this is a true story, but to me it
reads like the plots of the Hollywood scenario writers. It is
of course inevitable that the present morbid interest in
narcotics will result in the publication of drug fiction, and
the present volume is no doubt the beginning of an avalanche.
The plot is well adapted for the screen and omits
none of the hokum which invariably appeals. The fiend is an
Englishman of title, Sir Peter Pendragon, lately aviator in His
Majesty’s Flying Corps, suddenly heir to an enormous estate left
by the proverbial eccentric bachelor uncle. Apparently he’s a
decent chap, but a female German spy treats him to a little
“snow” and Peter is completely bowled over by a ravishing and
exclusive London belle, a Miss Lou Laleham, described as a cross
between a Mongolian and a Swede. They engage immediately upon a
cocaine honeymoon, beginning with an ascension in Sir Peter’s
seaplane. Certain advantages of a cocaine honeymoon are frankly
Unfortunately the couple run out of gas and later
out of “coke,” and their descent from Paradisio is terrible.
They sink lower and lower into the mires of drug addiction until
their common life becomes one continuous ground for divorce.
The realization of their degradation overpowers them and they
are on the brink of drinking prussic acid, when—
Of course they are saved and the last third of
the book is devoted to their cure by an ethical culturist out of
the House of David with overtones of Dr. Coue and the
Pathfinders club. His motto is “Do what thou wilt shall be the
whole of the law.” Under his hocus pocus Sir Peter finds that
his true will is not drug addiction but solving mathematical
“The Diary of a Drug Fiend” is written in a
better style than the general run of drug store fiction and
should make a decided hit with all those who thirst for
knowledge of psychology is amply satisfied by popular lectures
on how to develop one’s personality. It is not recommended,
however, for its analysis of narcotism, although it is not too
far of the mark when it indicates that the cause of the
addiction is to be found in the maladjustment of the individual
in modern life.
Likewise those who enjoy DeQuincey and Baudelaire will fail to
appreciate this book as literature. They will probably agree
with the preface that “it is a terrible story.”
—The Detroit Free Press, 12 August 1923.
Aleister Crowley's "The Diary of a Drug Fiend" we have found one
of the most utterly lurid narratives we have read for some time,
but as for its challenging comparison with De Quincey—that would
naturally be said—well, there simply is no comparison as to
—The Literary Review, 14 July 1923.
So much is heard of “doping” nowadays that we suppose it was
inevitable that this degrading vice would be exploited by
writers of fiction. “The Diary of a Drug Fiend,” by Aleister
Crowley (London: Collins, Sons & Co., 48, Pall Mall, S.W. 1),
is written with ability and apparent sincerity, but the narrator
and his wife are an unattractive pair of Degenerates, and Mr.
Crowley, with all his undoubted skill in the handling of his
medium, leaves us unconvinced by his account of their cure in
that strange twentieth century “Abbey of Thelema.” The
description of the effects of persistent drugging are at times
revolting, but the power of this part of the book is
undeniable. It lacks, however, the wonderful imaginative beauty
that preserves the “Confessions of an Opium Eater” from the fate
that has overtaken most of De Quincey’s numerous works.
—The Northern Whig, 6 January 1923.
Drug-taking, to judge from The Diary of a Drug Fiend
(by Aleister Crowley. Collins. 7s. 6d.( seems singularly
uninteresting. But, then, I happen most emphatically to dislike
losing control over my mental faculties, and the great
attraction of drugs appears to be the creation in the mind of a
false suggestion of wonderful power and pleasure—until the
virtue goes out of them and they produce no effect whatever,
save a restless craving, unless doses are taken regularly.
The one excuse for writing such a book as this is that
is should hold out some hope to the victims of this vice; and
this Aleister Crowley does, describing the theories, way of
living, and scenery of a spot to which the hero-villain and
heroine-villain go, to be brought back to sanity by the
discovery of their true work in life.
It is not a pleasing book, but Mr. Crowley invites
anyone interested in the system of training he describes to
communicate with him. Doubtless there must be many victims, and
relatives of victims, of this and other crazes who will accept
—The Daily Herald, 15 November 1922.
Some time ago, when our highbrows, or, as they area
pleased to call themselves, our intelligentsia, were all
praising James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” I ventured to put it in the
pillory as the pinnacle and apex of lubricity and obscenity. But
the praise of our highbrows has made it possible for a
respectable publisher to hurl into the British home a novel
which is modeled upon that scabrous outrage. There are two
methods of dealing with pornographic fiction. One is to ignore
it lest publicity should inflate its sales. The other method is
to raise public opinion so effectively that the book is either
withdrawn from circulation by the publisher or is confiscated by
The Liberty of Art
There is much to be said for the
first method. No critic ought to puff a vile book by advertising
its vileness. Moreover, no critic ought to narrow the liberty of
literature or fetter the art of the artist. If there be a doubt,
freedom ought to be given the benefit. On the other hand, if
pornographic novels are ignored they tend to become more
pornographic. They quickly expand their licence. The effect upon
young writers is injurious, for they are tempted to mistake
salacity for modernity, obscenity for daring, indecency for
independence. Thus the art of the artist is doubly damaged. When
the public revolt against the revolting, all artists are tarred
with the same brush. The liberty of art is unreasonably
curtailed. The pendulum swings from the extreme of licence to
the extreme of prudery. And the profession of letters is
smirched and soiled by its association with moral lepers.
I have therefore determined to
adopt the second method, and to do my best to secure the
immediate extirpation of “The Diary of a Drug Fiend” (Collins,7
/6 net) by Aleister Crowley. It is a novel describing the orgies
of vice practised by a group of moral degenerates who stimulate
their degraded lusts by doses of cocaine and heroin. Although
there is an attempt to pretend that the book is merely a study
of the depravation caused by cocaine, in reality it is an
ecstatic eulogy of the drug and of its effects upon the body and
the mind. A cocaine trafficker would welcome it as a recruiting
agent which would bring him thousands of new victims. . . .
The characters of the novel are
repulsive. . . . The gospel preached by the book is this: “Do
what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” The obscenities
are flavoured with cunning blasphemies. . .
There is even a parody of the Creed. At the baser and
more bestial horrors of the book it is impossible, even if it
were desirable, to hint.
It may be asked how such a book could secure publisher.
Well, few publishers have time to read t the books which they
publish, and even their readers some times read them hastily. I
imagine that this book secure publication in the guise of an
exposure of the evils wrought by drugs. But its true character
is stamped on it in spite of its ingenious use of innuendo and
artifice. It is a book that ought to be burned. Why lock up
cocaine-traffickers if we tolerate cocaine novels
—The Sunday Express, James Douglas, 19 November 1922.