A section of the cover image of
Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus:
Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus:
Yuri Leitch's rendition of Lam.
Here is an extract from the extensive consideration of UFOlogy in my book Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus. It is obviously intended to interest the reader in the larger work.
Amazingly enough there are some who believe that Aleister Crowley was perhaps the first alien contactee in the modern sense of the term. A Thelemic ET theme has also been suggested running through the Babalon Working, taking us into the birth of the UFO era. This seemingly wild idea will lead us into a consideration of the Contact phenomenon itself and the manner in which UFOlogical studies can take us into the wider field of the paranormal and occultism. Eventually, after a most extraordinary journey indeed, we shall return to the mystery of The Book of the Law and ponder whether it may contain a secret key to the whole process.
Kenneth Grant was just twenty when he met Crowley in 1944. Already well-read in western occultism and eastern mysticism he embarked on a crash-course magickal apprenticeship whilst serving as the Beast’s secretary. It only lasted a few months but ensured that Grant became one of Crowley’s literary executors alongside John Symonds. This afforded him access to unpublished material and later involvement in the production of editions of many of Crowley’s works.
The leadership succession in the OTO has been a controversial and litigious issue ever since Crowley’s death. Rival groups have formed. Grant became the head of one of them, known to history as the Typhonian OTO. As well as a connection to Crowley, he also had the distinction of prolonged close contact with the prodigiously talented shamanic artist Austin Osman Spare. After assimilating all kinds of knowledge and experience over a period of decades he finally published his first major work, The Magical Revival, in 1972, an account of contemporary occultism seen from the perspective of the Aeon of Horus.
Grant may well be the most controversial occultist of the second half of the twentieth century. There have been critics who have considered him to be genuinely insane and/or monstrously evil and that his writings are a major distortion of Crowley’s legacy. Others consider him to be an awesome genius. It does seem rather remarkable that a person of his potential should meet the dying Crowley at such a young age. For now, we shall focus on the theme of what could be termed Thelemic UFOlogy that runs through nine books by Grant that have come to be called the Typhonian trilogies.
The illustrations in Magical Revival include a reproduction of a drawing made by Crowley in 1919 which Grant describes as ‘Lam, an extra-terrestrial intelligence with whom Crowley was in astral contact.’ It’s important to be clear about the history of this image as so much mythology and contention has arisen around it. In 1918, during a period when he was living in America, Crowley engaged in an extensive six-month long magickal episode known as the Amalantrah Working, primarily with the aid of his Scarlet Woman of the time, Roddie Minor. A combination of sex and drugs helped induce repeated consistent visionary material focused on a being named Amalantrah. Crowley was satisfied that the imagery and names produced were authentic in as much as they met his Qabalistic checking criteria. Towards the end of the written records of the working, Amalantrah made the enigmatic statements “It’s all in the egg”, “Thou art to go this Way.” Unusually for Crowley’s magickal records there appear to be details missing during the final phase.
The drawing seems to originate from the same period and depicts a being with an elongated egg-shaped head and no ears. It was publicly displayed in an exhibition of Crowley’s art-work in New York in 1919. It also featured as the frontispiece for an edition of HP Blavatsky’s The Voice of the Silence with an extensive running commentary from Crowley. There it was designated as ‘The Way’ and given this explanation: ‘LAM is the Tibetan word for Way or Path, and LAMA is he who Goeth, the specific title of the Gods of Egypt, the Treader of the Path, in Buddhistic phraseology. Its numerical value is 71, the number of this book.’ It was later stated that the figure was Crowley’s ‘guru’ and ‘painted from life.’ That appears to be all that Crowley ever had to say about it. It is by no means clear that the word Lam is a name belonging to the being in the picture.
Unlike Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky’s Voice is a short devotional work of Eastern Mysticism and not loaded with her usual esoteric detail. It tries to evoke the source of consciousness, considered to be a silent void, and the key to its mystical realisation, poetically rendered as experiencing its voice. Crowley’s mystical side was entirely in harmony with such sentiments and equated the idea with Harpocrates perhaps implying that Lam, as an image of the Voice of the Silence, could be linked with a complex of associated ideas in the Thelemic system.
Part of Crowley’s commentary briefly refers to another 1918 event when he spent time on Esopus Island in the Hudson River in New York State. During that period he claimed to have accessed a number of past life memories that became significant in the emerging Crowley myth. These included the major occultists Cagliostro and Eliphas Levi.
Sometimes overlooked in this catalogue is Ko Yuen, stated to be a follower of Lao Tzu, the author of one of the great masterpieces of the wisdom tradition of humanity, the Tao Te Ching. During the Esopus retreat, Crowley produced a version of the Lao Tzu classic full of cross-referencing notes to the Qabalah. In the introduction he states that he was still in ‘almost daily communion’ with Amalantrah. ‘He came readily to my aid and exhibited to me a codex of the original, which conveyed to me with absolute certitude the exact significance of the text.’ Crowley had travelled across Southern China. Taoism was a big influence on his mysticism. The I Ching was his constant companion for decades. The records of the Amalantrah Working show extensive use of it. This 1918 work immediately preceded the Blavatsky commentary and the appearance of the Lam picture. Tao has often been translated as “Way,” the actual title of the drawing. This has lead to the suggestion by Alan Chapman in the 2007 Fortean Times Crowley special that the figure may actually be Lao Tzu himself as depicted by a reincarnation of one of his followers. Crowley’s lack of draughtsmanship skills have simply meant it’s a poor depiction of a Chinaman.
After this brief appearance, the picture seems to vanish from sight until Kenneth Grant came upon it during his short stay with Crowley who actually gave it to him which alternatively suggests that it was not particularly important or the exact opposite, with him recognising something of the young Grant’s temperament and potential.
Cover image of Whitley Streiber's Communion.
Following its dissemination through the three Typhonian trilogies, the image generally known as Lam is probably Crowley’s most famous art-work. Its original use as the frontispiece to Blavatsky has been virtually forgotten. The visual archetype of a grey ET has become well-established in popular culture, particularly since the eighties when Whitley Streiber’s Communion featured a striking image of one on its cover. The resemblance to Lam was enough to establish a conceptual linkage that has since become a widespread internet truism whose mythology has included a number of further connections that critics could consider tenuous.
The Babalon Working was concerned with ripping a hole in the fabric of reality to encourage influences from beyond to enter in. That may seem a pretentious megalomaniacal enterprise but consider the very events that Jack Parsons had been connected with. The science of the time was doing precisely that. After the atomic explosions it was easy to believe that the veil was thin and further momentous events near at hand.
It has been increasingly speculated that, following Crowley’s Lam contact, the Babalon Working also opened a larger portal that bore a direct connection to the influx of UFOs the following year during which Crowley died. This idea has been widely repeated outside of Grant’s work and is gaining strength with each passing decade. That both portals were opened in America, a major focus for early UFOlogy, has also been deemed significant.
In Outside the Circles of Time Kenneth Grant stated that ‘Parsons opened the door and something flew in’. The flavour of that something is indicated by a strange episode that occurred in March 1946 at the time of the conclusion of the Babalon Working. Marjorie Cameron saw an unidentifiable aerial phenomenon. She was exhilarated, considering it to be a Thelemic sign, a ‘war engine’ mentioned in The Book of the Law. This event inevitably predisposed her to be particularly interested in a phenomenon that erupted into popular consciousness the following year.
Grant instigated a specific Cult of Lam after coming to feel that the portrait was a focus of an increasingly intense extra-terrestrial energy that would be of great importance during the Thelemically significant decade of the eighties (remember ‘I am the warrior Lord of the Forties: the Eighties cower before me & are abased’?).
It is worth pausing to consider what “Extra-Terrestrial” may be considered to mean. To most people it will obviously refer to something originating on another physical planet elsewhere in the universe. In this Thelemic context it designates experiences and intelligence not confined to the consensus three-dimensional co-ordinates of planet Earth. Higher dimensional realms coterminous with 3D may well be the spaces these mysteries move through.
Grant is a mystic like Crowley. For all of his exposition of entities and magical realms his ultimate devotion is to the non-dual philosophy perhaps best expressed by Hindu Advaita Vedanta and its peerless modern exemplar Ramana Maharshi. As far as this ET issue is concerned it means the distinction between inner and outer is abolished. It is in harmony with Jung’s intuitions. The field of UFOlogy thereby becomes an aspect of esoteric psychology. Its classic cases represent processes of magical and spiritual initiation for individuals and humanity as a whole, whether understood by their subjects as such or not. There is confusion and possible failure and tragedy implicit in this extraordinary scenario.
The basic Kenneth Grant position, which is now an important aspect of the magick of the Typhonian OTO, is that firstly Lam is a name and image of something that gives access to Extra-Terrestrial gnosis, a state of consciousness. Lam was intrinsically part of the Amalantrah Working which opened a portal of some kind to other dimensions. This makes Crowley the first modern style ET contactee. It also opens up a consideration of what is the real nature of the Secret Chiefs of Occultism and in particular, Aiwass.
In the Cult of Lam as initiated by Kenneth Grant and developed by his closest long-term associate in the Typhonian OTO Michael Staley, Lam is not necessarily a distinct entity but a trans-aeonic portal to gnosis outside of the circles of time. Something about his visual appearance potentially serves to stimulate aspects of consciousness otherwise dormant. He could be a mask for the experience of the Hidden God/Holy Guardian Angel and help serve the purpose of crossing the abyss.
The basic method of Lam meditation consisted of creating a magickal space by the usual banishings and then sitting silently in front of a copy of the Crowley picture staring into its eyes. The name was then repeated internally in the manner of a mantra. This process was considered sufficient to potentially stimulate an altered state of consciousness. As mood shifted an imaginative attempt would be made to enter into Lam’s head, the Egg of Spirit, and then look out from his eyes. Profoundly alien zones might be thus encountered or general mutations of consciousness allowing download access to previously unknown realms of being.
An extension of this procedure formulated by Michael Staley begins with the fact that the name Lam also happens to be a Sanskrit seed syllable featured in some Kundalini yoga systems referring to the base chakra wherein the great serpent power resides that can be raised up the spinal column through a progressive expansion of consciousness until a climactic enlightenment at the top of the head. Staley’s development involves visualising a serpent with the head of Lam ascending the spine through the chakras. The process does not directly identify Lam with Kundalini but may produce similar results.
We have established at least one example where, regardless of the particular cases’ credibility, there is an overlap between the study of UFOlogy and occultism. Closer investigation soon reveals that this zone of overlap is in fact of considerable size and any account of UFOlogy which ignores it is profoundly incomplete.
Text from Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus.
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