September, 1995 e.v. key entry by Darryl Lee Emplit III' O.T.O. October, 1995 e.v. first proof reading, more needed. by Darryl Lee Emplit III' of O.T.O. ASCII Text Standard / Copyright (c) O.T.O. LIMITED LICENSE Except for notations added to the history of modification, the text in this file down to the next row of asterisks must accompany all copies made of this file. In particular, this paragraph and the copyright notice are not to be deleted or changed on any copies or print-outs of this file. With these provisos, anyone may copy this file for personal use or research. Copies may be made for others at reasonable cost of copying and mailing only, no additional charges may be added. This file may not be incorporated in media share-ware collections for commercial sales. ************************************************************************* FELO DE SE. By Aleister Crowley (C)Ordo Templi Orientis It lacked a little of midnight. In the east the moon, rising high above the trees that fringed the river, made a lane of light. Her beams fell upon the face, delicately pensive, with the lips thinly tightened from their drooping corners, of a young exquisite, in whose slender and nervous fingers trembled a gold- headed cane. He was standing at the very edge of the calm water, upon the narrow grass that lay between it and the towing-path. On his right, across the river, rose a hill, cloaked in giant woods, a menace and a mystery. On his left, a clump of beeches sheltered a knoll of velvet grass, one would have said a lover's bower. Behind him lay many miles of pleasant fields and villas. There was no sound in the night but the rare hooting of an owl in the great wood, and the secret undercurrent of sound caused by the commotion of a distant weir. "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. A fine night!" said a strange voice in the young man's ear. He failed to catch the first part of the greeting, so absorbed was he in his thoughts; to the second he answered mechanically "a fine night, sir!" As he did so he turned to look at the stranger. He saw a man between thirty and forty years of age, both full and broad, yet slender, and giving the impression of great strength and activity. It was, however, the face, barbered in Vandyke fashion, which startled him. No one could ever forget it. Deep melancholy lay upon it, yet only as a veil to roguishness. The mouth was small, scarlet and voluptuous, although firm. But in the eyes lay something beyond any of this. The pupils were extremely small, even in that dim light, and the expression was of such intensity that the young man, startled, no doubt, by the suddenness of the apparition, thrilled with fear. By instinct he moved backwards to the towing-path, for in that place the river runs exceeding deep - and who could decipher the portent of such eyes? "I am afraid that I have broken in upon your meditations," continued the new-comer. "Pray excuse me. I will resume my walk." But the young man gave a little laugh, harsh and bitter. "Not at all," he said with a little sneer. "I am only going to kill myself." "Good," returned the other, whom we may identify as a Master of the Law of Thelema - and this story will explain what that is - "I applaud your decision." The youth, although not a disciple, failed entirely to understand that the Master meant what he said. He sought instantly to excuse himself. "If you only knew all my reasons." he began gloomily. "I do not ask them." replied the elder man. "You have announced your intention. I do you the common courtesy to assume that your intention is in accordance with your Will. That is reason enough and to spare. There is no Law beyond: Do what thou wilt. Besides, you'll make a bonny corpse." The young man stared rather wildly. "No, I'm not a lunatic," smiled the Master: "would it perhaps bore you if I explained my reasons for not excluding felo de se from that infinite list of acts which are now lawful? It may relieve you of some silly scruple, and enable you to take the plunge with that calm ecstasy which should accompany our every act." "You interest me greatly," acquiesced the youth. The other nodded. "Let us then sit here, where we can enjoy the beauty of the moonlight. Perhaps you will join me in a cigar?" "I only smoke cigarettes." "Every man to his taste. Well," and he lit up, "in order to set ourselves right with the Academies we had better begin with Plato. What say you?" The youth removed his cigarette and bowed with deference. "The Phaedo," continued the adept, "is certainly the feeblest of all Dialogues. It is a mass of very silly sophistry, and the classic of petitio principii. But the argument against suicide is put with all the cogency of a nursemaid. 'The Gods will punish it, probably,' is the Alpha and Omega of that monolith of stupidity. Socrates himself saw it, no doubt, for he changed the subject abruptly. His only attempt to save his face is to shelter himself behind Pythagoras. Now he saw, just as you do, that death was desirable to the philosopher... and young though you are, my friend, if I may dare call you so, that brow bespeaks the love of wisdom... yet he would not 'take death the nearest way. Gathering it up beneath the feet of love, or off the knees of murder reaching it,' because of the gods. He has given the most excellent reasons for wishing to die, but he will not admit their validity. Yet he had himself, as he admits later, committed suicide by not escaping 'to Megara or Boeotia." True, he gives an excellent reason for so acting, but to admit one reason is to admit the edge of the wedge. If an act is permissible for love of law and order, even unjust law - and this is, as you know, the reason advanced by Socrates - then why not for - let us say - the safety of the republic? What of the messenger, fallen into the hands of the enemy, who kills himself lest torture wring the army's secret from him; the man who throws himself from the raft, that his comrade may be saved - or his enemy - 'I alit On a great ship lightning-split, And speeded hither on the sigh Of one who gave an enemy His plank, then plunged aside to die.' One can think of a thousand cases from Curtius to Jesus Christ, this last surely the most deliberate suicide possible, since he had planned it from all eternity, even taking the trouble to create a universe of infinite agony in order to redeem it by this suicide. You are, I hope, a Christian?" The young man declared that he was an humble and erring, but sincere, follower of the Man of Sorrows. "Then observe how suicide is the hallmark of your religion. 'If thine hand offend thee, cut it off.' Scourge thy body, starve it, lick the sores of lepers, risk everything, but save the soul. This is all suicide, some partial, some complete. It does not even demand a reason: sheer hatred of the body is sufficient. Again 'The carnal mind is enmity against God'; suppress it; faith and obedience are enough; reason will surely destroy them and the soul as well. "Now, even those unfortunate persons, who, like myself, not being Christians, cannot assent to so much, can at least admit that some one man, in some one strange circumstance, may rightly lay violent hands upon himself. Then who is to judge of such a circumstance? Is the man to consult his lawyer, or to ask for a referendum? Absurd, you will agree. Then what is left but a private judgement? And if it seem good and sufficient cause for self-murder that 'I am idle; also, it is true, I have no more money,' as in the case of Prince Florizel at the Suicide Club, who shall judge me? You may disagree; you may call me mad and wicked and all manner of names: I can do the same to you with equal right, if I wish to be discourteous. But I can imagine many a situation , incomprehensible to any but its central figure, which would justify such an act in all men's eyes if they understood the case. Every man is commander-in-chief of his own life; and his decisions must always be taken in the sanctuary of his own soul. The man who goes to others for advice abdicates his godhead, except so far as he does it merely because he wishes to hear the case argued by another. The final decision is his own responsibility; he cannot really evade it, even if he would, except by a subservience and slavishness which is more horrible than any suicide of the body could be to those who must object to it...." "Of course, the law forbids suicide," urged the young man, puffing violently at his seventh cigarette, "on the ground that a man owes service to the King." "It is a convenient weapon, like religion itself, and all its other precepts, of the tyrant against the slave. To admit this argument is to confess yourself a slave. It is a wise weapon to have forged, moreover. If one hundred workmen were to commit suicide simultaneously, instead of starting silly strikes, the social revolution would arrive that day. I did not ask the King for permission to be born; I came here without my own volition: at least allow me the privilege to depart when I please! In the Middle Ages the necessity of preventing suicide was so well understood that they devised horrible and ridiculous maltreatments of the body - as if any sensible suicide would care. Nowadays populations are larger, and it does not matter so much. The tyrants rely on silly superstitious terrors. I am supposed, by the way, to have a great deal of what is called occult knowledge, and when I make a magical disappearance, as I do now and then, without warning, my most devoted disciples always console my anxious paramours with the remark that I can't have killed myself because I 'know only too well what the penalties are.' It would be more sensible to retort. 'Anyhow I bet he hasn't killed himself for your sake, you cuckoo!' But my disciples have no sense: they prefer to utter pompous and blasphemous nonsense, and to defame my character. James Thomson makes Bradlaugh say, in that stupefying sermon: 'This little life is all we must endure: The graves most holy peace is ever sure; We fall asleep and never wake again; Nothing is of us but the mouldering flesh Whose elements dissolve and merge afresh In earth, air, water, plants, and other men.' - that sermon which concludes on the grand diapason: If you would not this poor life fulfill, Then you are free to end it when you will, Without the fear of waking after death.' I know of nothing to reply to that. I tell you on my magical honor that it is so. I will admit that I know of states of Being other than that familiar to you as a man. But does the ego persist after death? My friend, you know very well that it does not persist after one breath of the nostrils! The most elementary fact in Buddhist psychology is that! Then (to pursue Gotama into his jungle) "What can be gained, and what lost? Who can commit suicide and how?" But all this metaphysics is more unsatisfying than chopped hay to an alderman. I counsel you, my young friend, to avoid it in your next incarnation, if you have one. (It doesn't matter to you whether you have or not, since you won't know it. What has posterity done for you, anyway?) At least let us avoid it for the few brief moments that remain to us. To revert to the question of the right to make away with yourself - if it be denied that you have the right to end your own life, then, a fortiori, I think you must admit, you have no right to end another's. Then you should be in revolt against a government whose authority rests in the last resort on the right of capital punishment. You are particeps criminis every time a murderer is hanged; you deny the right of peoples to make war, and possibly that of doctors to practice medicine. You have excellent reasons for hanging and shooting others, and do so, by your own hand or another's, without a qualm. Surely then you are on unassailable ground when you sacrifice a victim to Thanatos not against his will but at his express desire. The only objection I know to allowing doctors to offer a fuller euthanasia to hopeless sufferers than is now permitted is that it might facilitate murder. Well, do any further objections to are very sensible decision occur to you?" "People say it's cowardly," ventured the young man, who was now enjoying a cigar, slipped to him by the adept, and lit with the acquiescence of one half-hypnotized. "Shame, foul shame!" returned the Master with indignation, as he started to his feet and began to pace to and fro in his honest wrath. "Shame on the slanderers who try to mask their own cowardice by branding with that stigma of indelible infamy the bravest act that any man can do. Is not Death the Arch-Fear of Man? Do we not load with titles and honors and crosses and pensions the man who dares death even by taking the small chance of it offered in battle? Are we not all dragged piteously howling to the charnel? Is not the fear of death the foundation of religion, and medicine, and much of law, and many another form of fraud and knavery? But you, in perfectly cold blood, face this fiend calmly and manfully - you with no chance of temporary escape like the soldier or the man in the consulting-room - you who face a certainty when the rest of the world tremble at a chance - they call you coward! Why, death is such a fear that the very word is taboo in polite society. Is it not because religion has failed to fortify the soul against this apprehension that religion is no longer the vogue? Instead we indulge in dances and music and wine and everything that may help to banish the thought. We permit no skeleton at modern feasts. Philosophy dwells much upon death: perish philosophy! Mankind today dreads every discussion of realities, because to modern men death is the supreme reality, and they wish to forget it. It is the fear of death that has fooled men into belief in such absurdities and abominations as Spiritualism and Christian Science. I would be honored, sir," he stopped in front of the youth, "if you would allow me to grasp the hand of the bravest man that I have ever met, in the very moment of his culmination!" The youth arose, automatically almost, and gave his hand to the adept. "I thank you sir," continued the latter, "you have given me an example, as you have taught me a lesson, of sublime courage. You are a thousand times right. When the evils of life become intolerable, they should be ended. I have half a mind to join you," he added, musing. "I have many disciples." He sighed deeply, and threw away the butt of his cigar, first lighting another from the glow. "It seems to me that far too much fuss is being made about death now-a-days, as it is about death's deadlier twin-sister, Love. The ancients were our masters in these matters, and so are the Japanese and Chinese of today. The fear of these two things - who are but the man and wife at the lodge gates of Life Park - was probably imported from the Indian peninsula. Early Christians, with their agapae and their martyrdoms, feared neither. The Crusaders feared neither. But those nations that have become effetes, that preach peace and morality, and woman's rights, these have the cur's spirit, the eunuch's soul, and in these nations death is dreadful and love dangerous. The virile temper of the Romans grasped love and death like nettles that excite even as they sting. That temper has decayed - the war they should revive it - and men flee from death and love. Love stands apart and weeps; but Death cries Tally-Ho, and hunts them down to hell. 'But dried is the blood of thy lover, Ipsithilla, contracted the vein,' 'Novem continuas futationes!'" ended the adept, raising his voice even more than possibly the best taste would have sanctioned, though after all a river's marge at night is not an alcove. However, he recollected himself, and continued more gently. "Pardon me, young sir, I beg," he said, "my feelings overcame me for the moment. Balk at love, you balk at death: balk at death, you balk at life. It's hard to score," he added laughingly, with both balls in baulk." (The allusion is to the English game of billiards.) The young man laughed, not wholly from courtesy, but because he was really amused, despite his tragic situation. "If we all took things more easily," the Master added, "they would go more easily. Confidence is two battalions in every regiment that we have. Fear, and you fumble. Go ahead, a song on your lips and a sword in your hand; and meet what comes with gaiety. Damn consequences! If you see a girl you like, prove it to her by Barbara and Celarent all the way to Fresison or whatever the logician's Omega is - I forget." The boy was unable to remind him. He had taken Paley for the Little-Go. "If you see a danger, embrace it," went on the elder man. Nothing seemed to exhaust the energy of his harangue. "If you escape, you have lived more beautifully and more intensely. If you die, you die, and one more bother is done with. Best of all, then, when one is tired of life, to face the Great Adventure gay and gallant - as you do to-night!" "Then, do you see no objection, of any kind," answered the youth, a trifle more earnestly than his habitual manner (Harrow and Trinity Hall) would have permitted in more usual circumstances, 'to the fatal act which, as soon as you deprive me of the great charm of your company, I shall have yet one more excellent reason for putting into execution?" "None," smiled the Master, bowing rather pontifically at a politeness to which years of the servility of disciples had inured him. "Unless, perhaps, we look at the matter in this way. Assume one moment that you are what we empirically call an immortal soul incarnating from time to time in various bodies as occasion offers. Very good; then you willed to live in this body. You knew the conditions - assume that! Good: then you formulate the accursed dyad, you deny your own will by cutting short this life. Or, say this; assume that your body is an instrument by which you perceive material things, for a whim, or from some inexplicable desire, I know not what. Then why destroy your instrument? True, it is hopelessly damaged, let us suppose, so that it perceives badly. If it were possible to mend it, you being decayed, scrap it, and get a new instrument. The only argument is that you may have willed to observe the great cruelty of Nature, not only by seeing, but by feeling it, so that you may thereby become fortified in your resolve to 'redeem it from all pain.' But this is all a mass of assumptions, little better than the twaddle of the Buddhists and the Christians and the Theosophists and all the other guessers. Ignore it. "Thou hast no right but to do Thy Will. Do that and no other shall say nay.' Then since it is your Will to kill yourself, do not be turned from your purpose. That indeed would be a crime. The best argument I ever heard against suicide, if you will pardon my introducing a new witness, was an English journalist whose face resembled a cancer of the stomach in a rather advanced stage of the disease. 'Excuse a personal remark,' said I, 'but considered our feelings. Why not blow it all away with a pistol?' He replied with wit: 'I use it to pour drink into.' Clever Cecil!" The adept rose once more. "But I detain you." he murmured apologetically. "Religion, philosophy, ethics, and common sense concur in approval of your purpose. I am infinitely obliged to you for the pleasure you have given me by your elegant and informed conversation; I dare not even voice a regret that I shall have no opportunity of cultivating your acquaintance. Farewell! Love is the law, love under will." The Master bowed and moved slowly towards the towering breeches. But the boy - he was barely eighteen years of age - sprang to his feet and followed him. "You say," he babbled eagerly , in his enthusiasm a little forgetful of propriety, "you say you are a Master, that you have disciples. Won't you take me?" The adept showed no embarrassment. He would not even seem to rebuke the outburst, unconventional as it was. "Certainly," he returned. "Since I have persuaded you with all my power to do a thing and you now desire to do the opposite, you are pre-eminently fitted for a disciple. You will get on splendidly with the others, I am sure." Such ready acquiescence, couched as it was in the delicately-phrased English of which the adept was an acknowledged master, and made tart by that silky subacidity which had made him famous and infamous, delighted the boy beyond all bounds. He sank to his knees, and caught the Master's hand and kissed it, his face wet with tears, and his throat choking. The Master's own eyes dimmed for a moment: something rose in him that he did not even try to suppress. He stooped and put a friendly arm about the lad and raised him. "Come," he said, "it is no such great matter. Let us talk of other things. Or, if you will, enjoy the silence of this moonlit loveliness." Presently the sun rose, and woke the world to a new day's life worth living.