Allanah Myles—Black Velvet
Aleister awoke to find his familiar, his wife Rose, at the foot of the bed. She had the faraway eyes that signified a possession. “What is the matter?” he said. He was worried, as she had recently said that she felt she was pregnant.
“There is something you must know,” Rose said. “A being of great power wishes to communicate with you.”
“Can’t he wait until after my breakfast?” Aleister pleaded.
“He comes now.” Rose fainted to the floor and a voice came into the room. To Aleister, it appeared to emanate from a corner of the bedroom. The voice was neither high nor low, but deep, musical and expressive, and spoke unaccented English. Taken aback, Aleister sat upright in bed and clutched the bedclothes to him.
“Who are you?” he asked in a small voice.
“You may call me Aiwass. I am to give you the Book of the Law and signify the equinox of the old gods, and the beginning of the last Aeon of the world. You shall take it down from my dictation and spread its word throughout the world.”
Aleister blinked and swiveled his head back and forth across the room. All seemed in order, except for his crumpled wife on the floor. He craned his neck and twisted his body to look out the window behind the bed. He saw nothing but the familiar sights of a spring day in Cairo. What did I do last night to bring on this apparition, he thought. A devoted libertine, Aleister was renowned for drinking, dancing, drugging and extreme sexual exploits with all manner of devotees and hangers-on.
“But who are you?” Aleister repeated. “And, where are you?” Aleister had had visions before, but generally only when out of his head with intoxicants of one sort or the other. When the spirits came to his wife, she typically narrated what they told her, as a translator. But now, here, in the stark midday Egyptian sun, he saw a handful of dust in unreal blue shadow in the corner of his room, from whence the sonorous voice emanated.
“I am Aiwass, the minister of Hoor-Paar-Kraat, endowed by the powers ruling this Earth at present.”
Aleister was very acquainted with the spirit world, having mastered invisibility and evocation four years previously, and he claimed to be an adept at Magick. He called himself the Beast 666, yet he had never trembled so much in the presence of a spirit. It was as if his whole body was a lightning rod yearning for the bolt of creation.
From his bed, Aleister peered into the shadow in the corner and thought he beheld a tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw.
“I have come to command you to set down the Book of the Law that will supersede the Christian Bible and all others and set the course of your race into a new Age. I will come to you thrice to recite the past, present, and future so that you shall understand the Law.”
Upon hearing this Aleister was not the least bit stunned at the enormity of the task—to set out laws for all humanity to follow. His ego was such that it didn’t occur to him to be awed by the proposition. Rather he was overwhelmed by a feeling of bliss that had been chosen to be the ultimate prophet of the Creator.
“I am ready to receive your enlightenment,” Aleister said.
“Very well. The first law is the only law: Do what thou wilt.”
“Wait. Does that mean there are no rules, no strictures on conduct, and all may do what they wish?”
“No,” Aiwass said. “Love is the law, love under will. There is no law beyond ‘Do what thou wilt.’ People are stars whose destiny is to move on each’s true orbit, as marked out by the nature of position, the law of personal growth, the impulse of past experiences. All events are equally lawful—and everyone necessary, in the long run—but in practice, only one act is lawful for each at any given moment. Therefore, duty consists in determining to experience the right event from one moment of consciousness to another. Each action or motion is an act of love, the uniting with one or another part of Nuit; each such act must be ‘under will,’ chosen so as to fulfill and not to thwart the true nature of the being concerned.”
“I’m not entirely sure I grasp the difference between this Law and lawlessness,” Aleister said. “Surely, I have governed my own life under similar principles, but I am an elite, possessing greater intellect, discernment, and moral surety than the less fortunate masses. A world run under the Law you state would come quickly to sin and ruin.”
“The word sin is restriction,” said Aiwass. “A sin is a lie, a folly against self. The practice of ‘Do what thou wilt’ is that every man and every woman has definite attributes whose tendency, considered in due relation to environment, indicate a proper course of action in each case. To pursue this course of action is to do one’s true will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.”
“Again, I see how this works for the elite. But what of the less-gifted?”
“One should not protect the weak and the vicious from the results of their inferiority. Doing so perpetuates the elements of social dissolution. Rather aid nature by subjecting every newcomer to the most rigorous tests of his fitness to deal with his environment. The human race grew in stature and intelligence as long as individual prowess achieved security so that the strongest and cleverest people were able to reproduce their kind in the best conditions. Now that security has become general through the operation of altruism, the most degenerate of the people are often the offspring of the strongest.
“Your race has a sentimental idea of self-sacrifice, the kind which is most esteemed by the vulgar and is the essence of popular Christianity—sacrifice of the strong to the weak. This is wholly against the principles of evolution, and of the Law. Any nation which does this systematically on a sufficiently large scale simply destroys itself. The sacrifice is in vain; the weak are not even saved.”
Aleister is taken aback. “So, civilization must be tossed aside, and we all should struggle like vicious animals? Only the strong-willed are to survive and the weak are to be abandoned and pitied?”
“The Law regards pity as despicable. But further, to pity another man is to insult him. He also is a star, one, individual and eternal. The Law does not condemn fighting. If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him.”
Aleister, who had embraced Buddhism and its teachings that all existence is pure joy while sorrows are but shadows, was shocked at the implications of the law that Aiwass revealed. Despite his debauchery and his feeling of superiority, deep in his soul, he was infinitely sad at humanity’s state of universal sorrow, and passionately eager to raise humanity. The Law denounced pity as damnable, and by implication, acclaimed war as admirable.
“You are saying we should forsake Christianity, Buddhism and all other religions, to forsake the Bible and all other codes of conduct?”
Aiwass replied, “All bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of various errors in understanding the nature of man, such as the separation of body and soul, the idea that evil only resides in the body and goodness and reason in the soul, as well as the biggest error: that God will torment man in eternity for following his will.
“In reality, man has no body distinct from his soul, for what is called body is a portion of the soul as discerned by the five senses. Similarly, energy is the only life and is from the body and will is the bound or outward circumference of energy, which is eternal delight. I am the God of Vengeance. I am thy Holy Guardian Angel. I shall return the next three days. Be prepared to receive the Book of the Law, which I shall dictate to you.”
With that, the shadow disappeared and Aleister sat blinking in astonishment at what had happened. After a moment, he thought of his wife, leapt to the floor, and cradled Rose in his arms. Slowly she regained consciousness and, startled, cast her eyes about the room.
“What happened?” Rose asked. “Where is Horus’ messenger?”
“I have just had the most exhilarating experience,” Aleister said. “I know that during the trances that you’ve had over the past few days you said that the god Horus was trying to contact me. Darling, where did you get these ideas from? It appears that through your instrument, Aiwass, an angel of Horus, whom he called Hoor-Paar-Kraat, visited me and said he would give me the Book of the Law. He said he would visit me three times, speaking of the past, the present, and the future. What do you know of this god, Horus?”
“Until the trances, I had never heard of the names Horus or Hoor-Paar-Kraat. You know I don’t know anything about Egyptology. I don’t remember anything about those seizures. You are the one who said I spoke of Horus.”
Aleister, confused about the vision he had, decided he needed proof that his wife wasn’t manufacturing these incidents. Aleister quizzed his wife on a number of symbols related to Horus, according to the system he had gotten from Golden Dawn occult practitioners.
He asked, “What are Horus’ moral qualities?” Immediately Rose replied, “Force and fire.”
“Who is Horus’ enemy?” Rose replied, “Forces of the waters—of the Nile.”
Aleister continued his inquisition, and his wife knew Horus’ weapon, planet, number, and most impressively, arbitrary symbols Aleister concocted on the spot to represent Horus. After this last, Aleister became convinced his wife could read his mind. Nonetheless, he was still skeptical about the divine nature of the encounter, so he decided that the couple would go to the newly opened Boulak Museum where many ancient Egyptian artifacts were on display.
At the museum, Aleister asked Rose to point out Horus to him. The couple strolled through the museum and passed several well-known images of the god without note. Instead, Rose led Aleister straight to a painted wooden funerary stele from the 26th dynasty that depicted Horus receiving a sacrifice from the deceased priest Ankh-f-n-khonsu. Upon examining the piece, Aleister was stunned to note that it was numbered 666 by the museum, a number associated in the Bible with the devil, and with which he had identified since childhood.
Satisfied that Rose could communicate with Horus’ messenger, Aleister allowed himself to be guided by her. Over three days, following Rose’s instructions, he went to one of their rooms at noon. There he experienced trances mediated by Rose during which he took an hour of dictation from Aiwass.
From these experiences, Aleister created the Book of the Law and, convinced that Horus wanted him to establish a new religion, he created Thelema, named after the Greek word meaning “will.”
There was one aspect of the Law that Aleister felt particularly comfortable with:
I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all. It is a lie, this folly against self. The exposure of innocence is a lie. Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.
This call to the life of licentiousness justified Aleister’s past and current behavior as the fulfillment of his being and his will. In part because of this godly endorsement of excess, the newly created religion first caught on among the many upper-class devotees of occult practices in England, particularly the Great White Brotherhood and the Golden Dawn.
Although it grew slowly at first, after a decade, Thelema had spread throughout the world, with followers numbering in the millions. Most of its earliest followers were educated, cultured, and rich, and captains of industry. To them, the precepts of Thelema were a justification of their already self-serving behavior:
We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched and the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law, and the joy of the world.
No longer did elites need to feel responsible for the mass of humanity. All should do what they wilt and leave the masses to pull themselves out of their condition. Charity dried up. The rich built tall walls around their enclaves against the possibility of a plebeian revolt. There was a consolidation of power and money to the rich privileged classes unprecedented in human history. There was, of course, a resulting general descent into poverty and crisis for 90 percent of the world population. Although never a majority religion, Thelema claimed virtually all the world’s rich and powerful among its followers.
Many of these followers were in a position to carry out the exhortations of the third chapter of the Book of the Law:
Now let it first be understood that I am a god of war and vengeance. I will give you a war-engine. With it ye shall smite the peoples; and none shall stand before you. Lurk! Withdraw! Upon them! this is the Law of the Battle of Conquest: thus shall my worship be about my secret house.
Mercy let be off: damn them who pity! Kill and torture; spare not; be upon them.
Argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch! Them that seek to entrap thee, to overthrow thee, them attack without pity or quarter; and destroy them utterly. Swift as the trodden serpent turn and strike! Be thou deadlier than he! Drag down their souls to awful torment: laugh at their fear: spit upon them!
The Great War began and ravaged the world, producing a million casualties, and more than 300,000 dead in a single lengthy engagement. Increasing technological might enabled wholesale killing. Other wars raged unchecked, used by Thelemic rulers as both population control and a distraction from the real issues facing mankind. Enhanced killing machines enabled Thelemic adherent Talat Pasha to use the Ottoman government to systematically exterminate 1.5 million Armenians.
Thelemic capitalists did what they wilt, regardless of the effects on the less fortunate. Major cities lived under huge black clouds of pollution, waterways became too toxic for fish and threatened drinking water. Babies were born deformed, and minorities were slaughtered in pogroms and genocides. Apart from that, death rates skyrocketed as the masses were decimated by diseases caused by pollution and toxic food.
Aleister continued to live a life of debauchery while serving as the high priest of Thelema, spreading the practice of his Gnostic Mass, taking drugs, writing erotic poetry, and practicing Sex Magick, engaging in sex with dozens or hundreds of partners, with no reservation and no regrets. He felt his conscience to be an obstacle and a delusion, an obsolete holdover of heredity and education. As the Chosen One, he felt he could use all methods of implementing his religion with impunity. Aleister expected the New Aeon Aiwass foretold to release mankind from its pretense of altruism, its obsession with fear, and its consciousness of sin.
He maintained his prodigious literary output, not only about Thelema and Magick, but also of plays and books, all the while traveling the world, once crossing China on foot.
Aleister’s hyper-promiscuous sex life, combined with his broad travels, actually set off several pandemics of venereal disease. In a pre-penicillin world, this meant a trail of suffering followed him, although paradoxically, he himself seemed immune to the diseases.
Desiring to establish a formal Abbey of Thelema, Aleister ended up in Cefalù, Sicily in a villa filled with his followers. Gathering his fold together, the master of Thelema preached that Thelema would one day sweep away Christianity and free men from all restrictions on their will.
“I want blasphemy, murder, rape, revolution. Anything bad or good, but strong!” he declared. “I have exposed myself to every form of disease, accident, and violence. I have driven myself to delight in dirty and disgusting debauches, and to devour human excrement and human flesh. I have mastered every node of my mind and made myself a morality more severe than any other in the world. A thousand years from now the world will be sitting in the sunset of Thelema. Follow me and do what thou wilt!”
Aleister and the group created a latter-day Bacchanalia, filling their days with orgies, drugs and constant debauchery. The disciples performed Sex Magick rituals under the influence of hashish, opium, and cocaine. Naked children ran in and out of rooms where disciples were engaged in orgies.
After three years of constant pleasure-seeking and heavy drug use, a regretful Aleister cradled the head of Raoul, a young follower who had barely survived a heroin overdose and was sick from enteritis. “Master,” the young man said. “I miss the godly sweetness of my first heroin high—the warm silky euphoria palace, waves of pleasure massaging my soul, and the face of Horus smiling upon me. I miss being free from everything, mind, body, the outside world, the inside world. But each time I return, the road to the palace gets longer, and Horus sends me away earlier and earlier until it seems like he no longer cares for me. The love is gone, and it’s dark and cold outside and there’s nowhere to get warm except back in the palace. Now I see Horus no more. I just hope for a little warmth before I return. I will never feel the way I did the first time, and it will never get warmer outside. And I am forsaken!”
With this last, the boy closed his eyes and eventually stopped breathing. Aleister was shaken. His towering confidence was shattered. He realized that despite his power, his moral surety, and his god-given mission, he could not control all. He gathered his followers together, many suffering from various diseases of excess and recklessness, and led them in an epic 72-hour orgy. Aleister was the last to pass out, surrounded by white bodies sprawled naked on the damp stone floor.
In the nightmare room, when Aleister awoke, exhausted, he was surrounded by pornographic paintings, loathsome sayings—Soak me in cognac, cunt, and cocaine!—and tins overflowing with drugs. Rubbing his eyes groggily, he sneezed, and a white cloud billowed from his nostrils, He turned over to lie on his right side. He was filled with nothingness, divested of the passions that had driven him. No sensation, just a numbness. He regarded his dirty hands and broken fingernails blankly.
Staring at the blue wall on the far side of the room, Aleister was struck by a vision. He saw with startling cleanness the edge of the abyss upon which civilization trembled. He saw terrified multitudes pitch into the darkness, falling from the smoke and flames of burning cities, arms and legs waving as if feebly attempting to fly, plunging deeper and deeper into oblivion. Startled upright, Aleister’s stomach churned in horror as he realized his part in bringing the world to the brink.
Is all this because of ‘do what thou wilt,’ he thought. And because of my selfish ego? What have I done?
Aleister staggered to his feet and walked unsteadily into the courtyard, where he vomited for quite a long time before relieving his bowels on the pavement. Exhausted, spent, and demoralized, Aleister decided to clean himself up, turn out his flock, and book passage to Cairo so he could summon Aiwass in hopes of an explanation. He wanted to know if he had been an unfaithful servant, or if he had failed to grasp Horus’ intent in giving him the Book of the Law. He turned and entered the building again, slapping his followers awake and telling them to leave as quickly as they could.
Once in Cairo, Aleister managed to rent the room in which he had received Aiwass’ enlightenment. He began to prepare himself to contact Horus’ minister. His ex-wife Rose was long gone, driven mad after Aleister abandoned her and their child in the Orient. Later he had had her committed to an asylum for alcohol dementia.
Nonetheless, Aleister was determined to make contact with Aiwass and tried for three days with drugs, incantations, and Magick to summon his Holy Guardian Angel.
Late on the third day, close to midnight, Aleister noticed a pale blue light, like a flame, winking in and out in the dark corner of his room. He repeated his invocations and the light grew to fill the room.
Aiwass said, “Why have you summoned me?”
Aleister replied, “It is not you, but your master that I seek. I have serious and painful questions to ask of Horus. Bid him come and speak with me.”
Aiwass assured Aleister that this was impossible, that Horus did not commune with vassals such as him. Aleister recited a prepared list of the horrible things he had done in his master’s name and informed Aiwass that he now saw clearly that he must have misinterpreted Horus’ commands. “I do not wish to speak with you any longer,” he said, “but would converse with the Master, not the messenger.”
It was sunup when the angel finally relented and agreed to set up an audience for the following night.
At the appointed hour, Aleister, fraught with tension and anticipation, observed inky clouds forming in the corner of his room, eventually growing to fill the distance between the corner and Aleister’s bed. After some time during which the room was wracked with thunder and lightning, the billowing clouds parted and revealed a dark figure seated on a burnished ebony throne. Beside him was a tall seven-branched candelabra with candles that sucked light rather than releasing it. Behind him was an inky blackness of great apparent depth, except there were no stars, no visible thing: nothingness.
“It appears you no longer wish to serve me,” Horus said.
“No, no, no. I don’t mean to leave your service, Master. I am troubled and confused about what my mission is. I must have misinterpreted your wisdom and my charge. It now seems to me that You cannot have intended for me to sow doubt, trouble, and pestilence in the world, and to attract the weak-minded to your service.”
“That is precisely your charge, and you have executed it well,” Horus said. “This is your mission, and I am well pleased. Why are you troubled?”
Aleister was stunned silent. Was this some kind of test? He struggled to decide how to respond. “Master, even though I have lived life as a libertine, disregarding most of the strictures of society, I haven’t intentionally harmed anyone, but have served to spread your word, the Book of the Law. Begging your pardon, but it seems you want me to do evil, which I presume is against Your plan.”
“Quite the contrary. That is my plan.”
Aleister blinked, his mind awhirl. He felt the urge to vomit but choked it back. “Sure . . . surely you cannot want to harm Creation? Surely the message of the Book of the Law must be to preserve Creation and cement man’s place in it? Surely that is the will of the Creator?”
“You think that weakling, Yahweh, made this Creation? He did not. I did,” Horus said with a sneer of disgust.
“Think about it. Look at all the suffering, devastation and cruelty in your world. Regard the decay of the sense of sin, the growth of irresponsibility, the strange modifications of the reproductive instinct with a tendency to become bisexual or epicene, the childlike confidence in progress combined with nightmare fear of catastrophe, against which the sniveling masses are yet half unwilling to take precautions. Surely that self-righteous fool Yahweh couldn’t abide all the evil! No, ‘tis mine! You serve the Creator, and my rule is dark. If you are to be my Messiah, you will need to embrace this dark world and assist me in bringing about its complete ruin!”
Aleister’s brain buzzed with confusion. The Creator of the world was . . . Satan? If so, why was the whole world not evil?
“Why create a world just to destroy it? You are Satan, the one cast out of heaven? Then why is there goodness in the world?”
The Creator laughed. “You have it exactly wrong. I cast Yahweh out of my realm. He was a poor soldier, always reluctant to rain destruction down upon humanity. He had his uses and successes, but he was unreliable. Nonetheless, in any game, one must have an opponent, and after I cast him out, he proved a worthy adversary. The gambit with his so-called son and the mythology that grew up around him was Yahweh’s attempt to build a religion of goodness and light. But he failed in so many ways. Popes! What a laughable mistake! Declare a feeble human an absolute authority and mayhem ensues. And he thought he was helping his cause! Every religion he started after that played right into my hands. He’s never gotten it right, not that he could, given his materials. I made humanity with a fatal flaw: hubris. It is this flaw that will ensure my eventual victory in this game. Yahweh cannot prevail against me as he is afflicted with hubris himself; he even fancies himself my equal.”
Aleister, shocked and mortified, cringed from the edge of the blackness. Can this be? Is the world really doomed to suffer and die? How can I serve this evil master?
“Away from me, Satan!” he said. “In Jesus’ name, I renounce you and all evil spirits. I renounce all your works and all your empty promises. In Jesus’ name, I cast you out, never to return.”
The Creator howled in laughter. “You fool! Yahweh’s blasphemous book says that Christians have dominion over me and the world. But the opposite is true. By following me, you gain dominion over the Christians, and the world. The silly words in Yahweh’s foolish book have no power over me. And you can no more renounce me than you can renounce yourself.”
“Nonetheless,” Aleister cried. “I am done doing your bidding! If to do wrong in your Creation is to do right in my life, then so be it. I will serve you no longer.”
“Nor will I permit you to serve me. Begone!” At this, the black clouds swallowed the Creator and Aleister found himself back in his room, standing upon his bed.