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 1908.
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.
Yours also is the Reincarnation and the Life, O
laughing lion that is to be!
Here 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 —fear not;
you are not “replacing truth of thought by mere expertness of
You 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.
—The New Age, Dr. M. D. Eder, date unknown.
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.