If the reader wishes to be shocked, he might do worse than read
Konx om Pax, or Essays in Light, by Aleister
Crowley. But let him not turn upon the
afterwards for what he reads therein. The title of the volume,
if we may believe the author of The Lords of the Ghostland,
means "Go in Peace," and was the word of dismissal used to the
participants after the ceremony of the Eleusinian mysteries was
completed. But the only word we are able to recognize is the
Latin "Pax," which seems somewhat inappropriate in a Greek
ceremonial. The book consists of a series of skits,
blasphemous, profane, profound and humorous. Sometimes it is
occultism that is parodied; sometimes it is the politician who
is caricatured; sometimes it is the follies and foibles of the
human race generally that are held up to ridicule.
Take this for instance, on politics:—
As yet however, the country was not irretrievably doomed. A
system of intrigue and blackmail, elaborated by the governing
classes to the highest degree of efficiency, acted as a powerful
counterpoise. In theory all were equal; in practice the
permanent officials, the real rulers of the country, were a
distinguished and trustworthy body of men. Their interest was
to govern well, for any civil or foreign disturbance would
undoubtedly have fanned the sparks of discontent into the
roaring flame of revolution.
And discontent there was. The unsuccessful cheesemongers were
very bitter against the Upper House; and those who failed in
examinations wrote appalling diatribes against the folly of the
The trouble was that they were right: the government was well
enough in fact, but in theory had hardly a leg to stand on. In
view of the growing clamour, the official classes were
perturbed; for many of their number were intelligent enough to
see that a thoroughly irrational system, however well it may
work in practice, cannot for ever be maintained against the
attacks of those who, though they may be secretly stigmatized as
doctrinaires, can bring forward unanswerable arguments. The
people had power, but not reason; so were amenable to the
fallacies which they mistook for reason and not to the power
which they would have imagined to be tyranny. An intelligent
plebs is docile; an educated canaille expects
everything to be logical. The shallow sophisms of the Socialist
were intelligible propositions of the Tory.
The verses, of which there are a good many, are very forcible
and realistic. A fair sample of the author's style is this,
quoted from the "Stone of the Philosophers":—
You would not dally with Doreen,
Because her fairness was to fade,
Because you know the things unclean
That go to make a mortal maid.
I, if her rotten corpse were mine,
Would take it as my natural food,
Denying all but the Divine,
Alike in evil and in good.
The book shows genius, but a genius that might have been better
directed; many passages are quite unquotable. If Mr. Crowley
would content himself with calling a spade a space it would be
The volume is bound in a black and white cover that one cannot
look at without blinking.
Occult Review, July 1909.
The Light wherein he writes is the L.V.X., of that which, first
mastering and then transcending the reason, illumines all the
darkness caused by the interference of the opposite waves of
thought. . . . It is one of the most suggestive definitions of
KONX—the LVX of the Brethren of the Rosy Cross—that it
transcends all the possible pairs of opposites. Nor does this
sound nonsensical to those who are acquainted with that LVX. But
to those who do not it must remain as obscure and ridiculous as
spherical trigonometry to the inhabitants of Flatland.
—The Times, date unknown.
The author is evidently that rare combination of
genius, a humorist and a philosopher. For pages he will bewilder
the mind with abstruse esoteric pronouncements, and then, all of
a sudden, he will reduce his readers to hysterics with some
surprisingly quaint conceit. I was unlucky to begin reading him
at breakfast and I was moved to so much laughter that I watered
my bread with my tears and barely escaped a convulsion.
Herbert Viviam, date unknown.
Pax. By Aleister Crowley. Publishing Co. Priceless.)
flamboyant flame of the sun, ardent with aeonpent energy,
revolted, turned aside from his immemorial mistress, wandered
across the track of the Seven Dials that perpetually revolve
amid the cloudless essence of Q.F.D.N.W.
Rejoicing on his way he fell in with the refulgent ray of the
moon rising with hyaline glint from an epileptiform seizure in
the Tychonic Crater. Behold the fierce flame has nurled the
rorty ray; they have united in the gusty anguish of love. Their
passionate embraces reverberate to distant Neptune, transfusing
the Dusky Ring of Saturn with a mad violence that would shame
the gobbler’s gill, who broke from her darling planet and taking
the outer rings in her wake fell to erratic vibrations,
disturbing enough to weary Astronomer-Royals.
glad, O ye earth ; rejoice exceedingly, my tender Pleiades;
frolic, leap-frog, 0 bright-eyed Arcturus; and you Orion (7=
matter vanquished by Spirit), skip, dance adown the Milky-Way.
The Moon’s Ray is in travail ; her groans re-echo on the earth,
the seas roar, the mountains spin, the cities are swallowed like
born. The cymbals clash, the oboes peal, the trumpets sound
shrill and clear. The Star in the West is born. Aleister
Crowley = 50 = 5 = A Magician. Born to misfortune, Trouble,
Strife, Fierce burning Anger, Deathless Struggle must be your
lot. Lo, is it not so written in the Kabbalah? Yours also is
the Reincarnation and the Life, O laughing lion that is to be!
you have distilled for our delight the inner spirit of the
Tulip’s form, the sweet secret mystery of the Rose’s perfume;
you have set them free from all that is material whilst
preserving all that is sensual. "So also the old mystics were
right who saw in every phenomenon a dog-faced demon apt only to
seduce the soul from the sacred mystery.” Yes, but the
phenomenon shall it not be as another sacred mystery; the force
of attraction still to be interpreted in terms of God and the
Psyche? We shall reward you by befoulment, by cant, by
misunderstanding, and by understanding. This to you who wear
the Phrygian cap, not as symbol of Liberty, O ribald ones, but
of sacrifice and victory, of Inmost Enlightenment, of the soul’s
deliverance from the fetters of the very soul itself
you are not “replacing truth of thought by mere expertness of
who hold more skill and more power than your great English
predecessor, Robertus de Fluctibus, you have not feared to
reveal “the Arcana which are in the Adytum of God-nourished
Silence” to those who, abandoning nothing, will sail in the
company of the Brethren of the Rosy Cross towards the Limbus,
that outer, unknown world encircling so many a universe.
would have the invitation general (although it is also not for
the elect in any ordinary sense)? These you need scarce repel.
In fine, I have precious little use
For empty-headed Athenians
The birds I have snared shall all go loose,
They are empty-headed Athenians.
I thought perhaps I might do some good,
But it’s ten to one if I ever should
And I doubt if I would save, if I could,
Such empty-headed Athenians.
this is a Socialist review, I must be at pains to notice “Thien
Tao," a political essay.
Expressed symbolically the main criticism we have to offer is
this the empty-headed Athenians will remain unsatisfied, and we
should be deprived of the epiphenomenal auxiliaries which
sustain us in our search for the master-key which is to unlock
the portals of all mystery; this mystery, ever elusive yet
syntonic, in its appeal to us. Here then let me quote: “The
recent extension of the franchise to women had rendered the
Yoshiwara the most formidable of the political organizations,
while the physique of the nation had been seriously impaired by
the results of a law which, by assuring them in case of injury
or illness of a fife-long competence in idleness which they
could never have obtained otherwise by the most laborious toil,
encouraged all workers to be utterly careless of their health.”
The disciples of the Rosy Cross held that woman was an
accident, an obtrusion upon the ramparts of the world’s plan.
Virgo-Scipio is a two-fold sign. Si igitur sub serpentis
imagine Phallium Signum intelligimus, quam plana sunt et
concinna cuncta pictura lineamenta." This conception of the
universe as a male one is tenable whole and wholesome, although
there was ever a place for woman as virgin freed from the
material gross greedy things ere she partook of “the fruit of
that forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste, Brought death into the
world, and all our woe.”
Mr. Crowley this view, like the Occidental conception towards
which we are now thrusting out tentacles of the roles of man and
woman furnishes nothing but matter for a jest. Now these views
are mutually exclusive, but are equally tenable. What is
wearisome stale and unprofitable is just our present-day
molluscan attitude. We sit quivering in the dry sand, awaiting
the seas that shall never reach us, but which we should go forth
to meet, yet afraid to clamber back up the high cliffs. Mr.
Crowley does not display his usual courage here, nor that
independence of judgment which nearly everywhere, even when he
is most wrong, commends our loving admiration. Mr. Crowley
should arrive at his own conclusions regarding the question. As
to whether his views are shared by the many or the few is
Mr. Crowley seriously regard laborious toil as ever conducive to
health? Toil, laborious or not, is all work undertaken without
the spirit of joy, ease, irresponsibility, and is the root of
all evil; it can never lead to any form of well-being. “The
government was well enough in fact, but in theory had hardly a
leg to stand upon.” This is not obscurity, but nonsense of the
most painful and blatant character. Facts and theories do not
suggest contradictory opposition. Facts are but the tortured
expressions of stupid people who cannot learn to think.
Crowley becomes the friend and follower of Herbert Spencer, Lord
Avebury, Arnold-Forster, and all the rest of parish-council
shop-keeping philosophers who conceive that Socialism aims at
the equalisation of the individual by furnishing a like
environment and like education for all. Or does he satirise our
own day by his remark that “The theory of heredity had broken
down, and the ennoblement of the cheesemongers made it not only
false, but ridiculous”? How can a theory of heredity ever break
down? There is some excuse for Mr. Crowley in the writings of
many Socialists, but the philosopher is not guided by the
fallacies of others; he dives below and discovers the pearls for
Myself and one or two others can undeceive Mr. Crowley, but he
can do it much better himself. He knows that there is no
freedom whilst the soul is chained; my Socialism will remove the
fetters. Another complaint, and my last. Kwaw devotes some
years to the pursuit of philosophy. “In the first year he
disciplined and conquered his body and his emotions. In the
next six years he disciplined and conquered his mind and its
Mr. Crowley I must recommend that he re-study the sixty-fourth
chapter of the Book of the Dead, not in the English translation,
however. For our readers, I recommend a study of Mr. Crowley’s
The Wake World and The Stone of the Philosophers, the first
especially containing all the beauty, the sense of haunting
mystery, with an entirely divine prescience that surely
distinguishes Mr. Crowley from the common flock of writers. By
the way, I should mention that the prose is interspersed with
some verse; his rhymes, for instance, “The Suspicious Earl"
are as startling and Frolicsome as any you will find in Hudibras,
his rhythm is varied, whilst he has a sense of music in words
from which even the Irish renascents may learn.
Mr. Crowley’s pleasure, after soaring in the heights, to
suddenly fling himself upon the earth in search of carrion, much
as I have watched the condor circling in the Andean ether plump
ghoul-like through the air as it sniffed some bespattered
carcase. However, in a vestryman age we cannot deny even Mr.
Crowley his little joke.
—The New Age, Dr. M. D. Eder,
29 February, 1908.
He is a lofty idealist. He sings like a lark at the
gates of heaven. “Konx Om Pax” is the apotheosis of
extravagance. the last word in eccentricity. A prettily told
fairy-story “for babes and sucklings” has “explanatory notes in
Hebrew and Latin for the wise and prudent”—which notes, as far
as we can see, explain nothing—together with a weird preface in
scraps of twelve or fifteen languages. The best poetry in the
book is contained in the last section—“The Stone of the
Philosophers.” Here is some fine work.
—The Literary Guide, date unknown.
Verbal fireworks. A wild and wasteful heterogeneous
collection of weird words. . . Still, one cannot but admire
the author’s oftimes skilful jugglery with words and his
kaleidoscopically changing humour, even though one deplores his
—The Literary Guide, date unknown.
This disconcerting volume of nebulous disquisitions in
amorphous prose, relieved at intervals by verses which are
formally musical, but substantially inconsequential and inane. .
. . A rambling miscellany which along with much quizzing and
much nonsense, vaguely reflects some of the ideas of the day. .
. . More tolerable in its verse than in its prose, for a poet is
not expected to be sensible. Readers who are already acquainted
with the writings of Mr. Aleister Crowley need not be told that
his imagination disports itself in a manner calculated to stun
the middle classes.
—The Scotsman, date unknown.
What can one really say about a production such as
this? At best it looks like one big sneer at the Christian
faith. There is a great deal that is undoubtedly smart and
clever, revealing at times real genius, but presented in such a
chaotic mystic rigmarole that the reader must needs stop his
ears. . . . There is some marvellous verse, but there is more in
it to deplore than to admire. We cannot conceive how a man with
the culture of Mr. Crowley could sit down and write and see put
into print some of the stanzas. This is essentially a top shelf
book, not suitable for all.
—The Perthshire Courier, date unknown.