Views and Reviews.
NOT WITHOUT HUMOUR.
“A Prophet In His Own Country.” By
Henry Clifford Stuart. With a Preface by Aleister
Crowley. (Author’s Edition.)
To be introduced and annotated by Mr. Aleister Crowley
is a distinction that most prophets have been unable to
obtain. This is not the fault of Mr. Crowley; the
internal evidence of this book suggests to me that he
would be willing to introduce anybody as a prophet; but
either prophets are rare in America, or they avoid
introductions by, perhaps even to, Mr. Crowley, for the
fact remains that it is Mr. Stuart, and no other, whose
work is recommended to us. “I have never yet met a
stupid American,” says Mr. Crowley. “But Mr. Stuart is
almost the only one whom I have met who was not silly.”
It is a dubious distinction; apparently prophecy, like
religion, requires darkness to shine in. In the land of
the silly, the one who is just “not silly” is a prophet.
Oh, the little more, and how much it is!
And the little less, and what worlds away!
Mr. Stuart moves in a different world from the
Americans, and the English; we are material, he is
“spiritual” like the Germans, as he discovered after
reading Bernhardi. We think words, vain “words, words,
words,” as Hamlet said, and they are words without
meaning. “The people say. What say they? Let them
say.” But Mr. Stuart senses “things”; when he wants to
know what will happen, he becomes God and says so.
“Things” are “in the air,” there is Mr. Stuart inhaling
and exhaling like the ventilating system on the Tube.
“Air! Give me air!” he cries; and as I have nothing
else to give him, I do so freely. I may be wrong about
the air; perhaps it is not pneuma but spiritus that is
Mr. Stuart’s daily food; but whatever it is, it blows
him out, and he wants a lot of it.
The form taken by Mr. Stuart’s expiration is that of
letters to all sorts of people and papers. Seest thou a
man going wrong in his business? Mr. Stuart will
breathe upon him. He breathes upon everybody, from
Sun-Yat-Sen to President Wilson, about something that he
calls Fine-ance. On this point, the python on his
tripodess is no more profound, and far less clear, than
the Banking and Currency Reform League, who do not, I
believe, lay claim to any divine inspiration or
spiritual contact with the unseen. Mr. H. G. Wells,
too, has written a novel called “The Sleeper Wakes,”
working out the same argument to a different conclusion;
and he has not claimed any divine inspiration, indeed,
he has confessed that he suffered from brain-fag when he
wrote the book, and has apologised for the manifest
signs of that fatigue.
Mr. Stuart’s sensibility to this “thing” tells us
nothing that is new, and we are not really compensated
for the lack of novelty by the style in which his
revelations are expressed. Mr. Crowley certainly says:
“Mr. Stuart’s style is as difficult as Wagner’s or
Whistler’s were to their contemporaries”: perhaps Mr.
George Bernard Shaw thought so when he received (if he
did receive) the following letter on November 15, 1914:
“Master Shaw:——I have given the greater part of my
leisure for the day to the consideration of your article
in the ‘New York Times.’
“Easily —— Well done!
“Part of a sentence —— one phrase alone; —— —— money,
the only commodity the moneyed class has to sell’ ——
would recompense me for my time.” We can imagine Mr.
Shaw sitting up and taking notice when this letter
reached him, and saying: “Great Collectivism! this man
pierces straight to the heart of things.” Mr. Crowley
says something similar on many occasions when Mr. Stuart
is no more profound than this.
For example, when Mr. Stuart writes, in free rhythm, a
dialogue between himself and Professor Fisher, and in
reply to Professor Fisher’s advocacy of “an unshrinkable
Such a statement
is only possible
to the mathematical mind.
None other can conceive of anything FIXED—
All others look behind,
around, and ahead; and perceive that
man has not only always failed
to fix things himself
but has never found anything fixed,
nor does his vision,
roam where it will
in Heaven or Earth,
find anything fixed;--
All is flux—
The very tombstones fail to fix the “Dead.”
Mr. Crowley puts one of his inevitable notes to the
rhapsody: “This argument is extraordinarily subtle and
profound, and cuts at the roots of the matter of
exchange. The triumphant conclusion in the Panta Rei of
Heraclitus stamps this dialogue as great literature.—A.C.”
Oh! Crowley, Crowley!
But this is a mere trifle of commendation to Mr.
Crowley; he does not stint his praise. On January 22,
1911, Mr. Stuart wrote:
Dr. Hannah Thompson pictures the faculty of sight and
the organs of sight as separate and distinct.
We know what poor instruments our organs are.
May it not be that “The Heavens” are right before us in
plain sight, were our organs only suitable for seeing
When we do see them it will be thro’ the
spiritualisation of the faculty of sight—
And may not some highly spiritual natures already so see
And if they did—would they inform scoffers?
Our spiritual natures are far from developed yet.
That is not the sort of message that would make one
say: “Hail Columbia! Bird thou never wert!” But Mr.
Crowley says: “There is an extraordinary resemblance
between the author of these letters and William Blake
(according to the frontispiece, Mr. Stuart looks more
like Andrew Carnegie); which extends not only to the
quality of the vision, but to their styles. There is
the same curious difficulty about reading them, a sort
of feeling that one is uncertain of the real meaning of
the thought. And this is not a mere question of the
connotation of the words used; it is a sort of
fundamental misgiving as to whether one’s mind is
sufficiently in tune to be able to apprehend. If there
be anything in the theory of re-incarnation, it is a
good bet that Mr. Stuart is William Blake come back.”
If this be so, let us hope that there is nothing in the
theory of re-incarnation or that, if there is, William
Blake will come in any shape but this.
Among the minor prophecies, this may be quoted; dated
August 23, 1914: “Physically, England is degenerate
——. She cannot put an army of any size or fighting
quality in the field any longer.” Poor old England!
Dead, isn’t she? Anyhow, win or lose, England will
pass, says Mr. Stuart; the war will last three years,
then the debts will be repudiated, then we shall have
class wars for seven years, and then the white races,
the only savages on earth, will be destroyed by the
yellow races. Gold will be the cause of our downfall,
and if I may remark a subtlety that Mr. Crowley has
over-looked, I should like to point out that Mr.
Stuart’s prophecies of calamity are arranged on a colour-scheme.
Our unstable civilisation is built upon gold; gold is a
shade of yellow, and yellow is the colour of wisdom.
All the nations of the world, except the Chinese, can
only see red at the present time; it is a common
complaint at all times that we never see the colour of
the other man’s money, and that complaint is made more
loudly than ever to-day. If there is no gold at the
bottom of the inverted pyramid, the pyramid totters; if
we cannot see the gold that is there, it might just as
well not be there; and people who are blind to the
colour of money and wisdom will be destroyed by those
who are wise, and look it. Come, China, and conquer us.
A. E. R.
New Age, 10 August, 1916.
week or so ago we had a book of prophecy by H. G. Wells. In this
book Mr. Wells declared that any one possessed of a broadly
generalized knowledge coupled with the scientific imagination
and habit could extend the present into its logical future, or,
in other words, any one thus endowed could prophesy. His book
was informing and illuminating, but it was too sane and
convincing to permit us to accept Mr. Wells as an Elijah or an
Elisha. But this book gives us a prophet of the true Hebraic
brand. Here is one who, from the high place of his own mind,
hurls thunderbolts and paints hell fire and brimstone with
fervor and a fine flaming effect. By way of something like 200
“letters” this prophet shakes the world-drift of this globe
around him and—neck-deep in it—he pulls out, hit-or-miss,
handfuls of its follies and banalities, its sins and its
ignorances. Politics, government, industry, commerce, finance,
social custom, religion and personal comment on this or that one
in authority make up, in part, the topics upon which this
torrent of language is cast. And the language itself is as much
of a protest against the ordinary behavior of this medium as the
thoughts which they represent are in rebellion, against the
common run of thinking. This motley of letter-writing is
gathered up under the headings, “The Dollar,” “China,” “War,”
“Aunt Margery,” “Miscellaneous.” The introduction, by the
editor, is so much in the spirit and manner of the author
himself, that one is set to wonderment over the fact that there
is another person in the world so much like “Stuart” as is
Aleister Crowley, the editor of this volume.
30 July 1916