By Paul Brunton
The appearance of a new book (Magick in Theory and Practice)
by Aleister Crowley recalls to memory an earlier work by that
author which came for review into the hands of G.K. Chesterton
some years ago. Writing in the Daily News, G.K.C.
“We have all possible respect for Mr. Crowley’s religious
symbols and we do not object to his calling upon Shu at any hour
of the night. Only it would be unreasonable of him to complain
if his religious exercises were generally mistaken for an effort
to drive away cats!”
There are several exercises in the present book whose purpose
might similarly be mistaken if a neighbour overheard one
It is known that Aleister Crowley has been working on the
manuscript of this book for several years, though not
continuously, and that he regards it as his supreme contribution
to technical or practical magic. It is not quite clear,
however, why Crowley has resumed his old pseudonym of the
Magick in Theory and Practice
runs to the length of 436 pages and consists of four parts, each
separately bound in strong paper. Before I turn to the work of
the author, I would like to pass a deserved compliment to the
Crowley persists in using the archaic spelling of the word
“magic” throughout his books. This is undoubtedly a matter
wherein he is right. “Magick” certainly upholds the wider and
more philosophical connotation of the term which it possesses
among the initiated. One would like to follow Aleister Crowley
in restoring the true spelling of the term, but editors and
printers are pontiffs whose bidding must be obeyed.
of this book opens with an appropriate introductory chapter
wherein the author presents his twenty-eight theorems in the
science and art of Magic. The first theorem is simple but
interesting: “Every intentional act is a Magical Act.”
The twentieth is equally interesting: “Man can only attract
and employ the forces for which he is really fitted.”
In a further chapter Crowley proceeds to describe his theory of
the universe. His aim would appear to be a reconciliation of
the Dualistic, Monistic and Nihilistic theories. His conclusion
is that our true knowledge of the material universe consists
principally of the concepts of pure mathematics.
The remaining chapters take up a consideration in detail of
those Magical formulae which compose the rituals of the art.
Thus we have the wand, the cup and the pentacle among elemental
weapons; Tetragrammaton, Alhim and I.A.O. among evocative names.
I am afraid that on page 65 Crowley loses his head when he tells
readers that not even God can check the Magician upon his chosen
path, but must be obedient to him. The part is declared to be
greater than the whole!
An unpleasant chapter on blood sacrifices contains this
“For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose
that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A
male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the
most satisfactory and suitable victim. . . . It appears from
the Magical Records of Frater Perdurabo (i.e. Aleister Crowley)
that he made this particular sacrifice on an average about 150
times every year between 1912 and 1928.”
This is doubtless nothing more than one of Crowley’s practical
jokes, though a particularly nasty one. Crowley once boasted
that he had killed and ate the bodies of two native bearers in
India. A prominent journal heard of this boast and sent a
reporter to obtain his authentication, which was readily given.
Thereupon the next issue of the journal appeared with the
headline: “Crowley the Cannibal!” I regret to say that a
humourless audience was completely deceived by this posturing.
Crowley has a predilection for practical jokes. He holds
nothing sacred, not even himself.
The choicest literary piece of Part One has been reserved
for the final chapter. With that characteristic modesty for
which he is so justly celebrated, Aleister Crowley explains that
the outbreak of war in 1914 was due to the publication of his
Book of the Law the previous year. “The intrinsic power of
the truth of the Law,” he adds proudly, “and the impact of the
publication, were sufficient to shake the world . . . the might
of this Magick burst out and caused a catastrophe to
At last we know the truth! It was not Kaiser Wilhelm; it was
not the fear and suspicion among national governments which
caused the war; it was none other than Aleister Crowley himself!
of this remarkable book covers some of the operations in Magical
Some interesting chapters on Clairvoyance and Divination close
this part. A common method among the adepts is that involving
fixation of sight. Crowley’s method is very different. He
instructs the pupil to imagine a shape resembling his own body,
standing immediately in front of him. When the concentration is
strong enough, he is to transfer consciousness to this “body of
light” while keeping the physical eyes shut. Then one is to use
the eyes of this thought-body.
inaugurates a series of appendices, which provide the reader
with a variety of informative notes. We are given a glimpse of
the structure of Crowley’s organization, to which he
mysteriously refers as the A\A\
and to which he applied the designation in earlier days of “The
Great White Brotherhood”. It can be stated here, however, that
the letters stand for “Atlantean Adepts”.
contains a noteworthy Dictionary of Correspondences, harmonizing
the Cabbala with Egyptian, Hindu and Chinese magical systems.
It is reprinted from his pre-war work, Liber 777, which,
I believe, is now wholly unobtainable. Letters, numbers, names,
etc., belonging to these systems are brought into line with each
other. Crowley explains that there is a natural connection
between them all as well as with certain symbols.
The later chapters describe a series of rituals and
incantations. I append a fair and funny sample of the kind of
matter they contain:
“The Animadversion towards the Aeon.
Let the Magician, robed and armed as he may deem to be fit, turn
his face towards Boleskine.
Let him strike the battery 1-3-3-3-1.
Let him describe a circle about his head, crying NUIT!
Let him touch the centre of his forehead, his mouth, and his
larynx, crying AIWAZ!
Let him break into the dance, tracing a centripetal spiral
widdershins, enriched by revolutions upon his axis as he passeth
his quarter, until he come to the centre of the circle.”
Is this Practical Magic? Or is it lunacy? Or is it just another
bit of fooling on Crowley’s part?
One chapter deals with the control of breath. It gives certain
Hatha Yoga practices in an altered form, but their dangers can
hardly have been lessened. Crowley informs us that his last
birth in a physical body was Eliphas Levi, the French writer on
Magic. As an interesting confirmation of this statement he
tells us that Levi died six months before the birth of the
author of Magick in Theory and Practice. I will
supplement this with the information that Crowley told his
friends in pre-war days that the illustrious Count Cagliostro
was another earlier incarnation of his, a claim that was also
made, or at any rate implied, by Mdme. Blavatsky when requested
by Dr. Franz Hartmann to tell him what was her last incarnation.
She went to a drawer and took out a portrait of Cagliostro, and
gave him to understand that this distinguished personage had
provided a sheath for her soul.
I am therefore forced to the conclusion that Aleister Crowley
and H.P. Blavatsky are one and the same person. But since this
theory scarcely seems tenable, the final judgment must be, in
Lord Tennyson’s phrase, that “someone had blundered!”
—The Occult Review, November 1932.