The title of this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek where my intended meaning with the wording is ‘Help me about Louis Lingg’. How, or why is this the case, you ask? My intent behind doing so was to highlight how easy it is to obfuscate meaning, and to unveil it at the same time.
“Mayday, mayday!” It has been heard in movies no doubt, or is known for its use in emergency situations such as impending crashes. It’s a call of ‘help me, help me’. The use of the word mayday as a distress call was conceived in the early 1920’s by Frederick Stanley Mockford utilizing the French m’aidez (help me). Anyway, I wished to write this post about Louis Lingg. No, not the physical human being Louis Lingg of the May Day events. And no, not May Day as in the Pagan Beltane sabbat, or the celebration of the return of Spring. This Louis Lingg is in reference to the May Day that was designated in 1889 as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago. We’ll get into what that is for context shortly. However, to clarify further on the title, this help about Louis Lingg is not for elucidation upon the actions of the individual, or their philosophical or political views, but is in fact referring to a particular writing of Aleister Crowley. That writing is chapter 81 in his Book of Lies, and that chapter is titled ‘Louis Lingg’.
I wish here to offer a lens for which we can view Louis Lingg in continuation of a response to an essay posted titled ‘Is Thelema Fascist?’ (I also responded to their criticism of Agape). Most of that essay ITF? continually called Crowley’s word, Thelema and its adherents, as fascist without much digging into the work’s meaning, even when explicit commentary is provided by the work’s author which explicitly demonstrates otherwise. In that piece which I glanced over with my initial response, there is another attack to Crowley which shoved him in the corner, and pierced him with a tag reading ‘feudalist’. This label was designated as appropriate as the words ‘I am […] for feudalism’ appear once in Crowley’s work.
Comedian George Carlin had famously remarked, ‘Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot; anyone driving faster than you is a maniac.’ I believe that line adequately sets the stage for reading Aleister Crowley’s chapter called Louis Lingg which contains the line ‘[…] in short, any man who falls far short of MYSELF — I am against Anarchy, and for Feudalism.’
This instance of the word feudalism appearing is pointed at, much like the other lines which were almost at random chosen and twisted to fit new meaning beyond what was intended by the author, at least according to their own records and notes. Though, I am not here endorsing the author or their positions, I’m utilizing this space for calling into question the logic of the questioner, or broadening discussion by highlighting other aspects which are being neglected almost as if intentionally.
To provide you with required context, here is the seemingly controversial writing in full below.
LOUIS LINGG by Aleister Crowley
I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word: your brain is too dense for any known explosive to affect it.
I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word: fancy a Policeman let loose on Society!
While there exists the burgess, the hunting man, or any man with ideals less than Shelley’s and self-discipline less than Loyola’s — in short, any man who falls far short of MYSELF — I am against Anarchy, and for Feudalism.
Every “emancipator” has enslaved the free.
This places Anarchy (Control for self) and Feudalism (Control for system) against one another, and says that every emancipator enslaves the free. So government, in governing, may restrict movements of those who would only do good with their freedom; growth; harmonious living in enlightenment. Yet they would need to compete with the chaos of those who would not look to contribute to building up, and establishing Order – there would be those looking to quicken entropy, to force outer worlds to match their inner confusion. One who may act out, like an anarchist demonstrator, is in their mind an emancipator, but they are imposing their ideals as they feel the system is imposed upon them. The authoritative force, in its emancipating movement and an attempt at order and law, is also enslaving the free.
The paradox is apparent, and Crowley’s rumination and text is quite clear in what it is saying with invoking feudalism – the author is not saying “hey feudalism is awesome”.
Though that was sufficient as a look at the piece by Crowley, we could break it down for further rumination to demonstrate the above is more fitting than an interpretation that was lopsidedly used as evidence of Crowley being a proponent of feudalism and fascism. Crowley starts the piece saying “I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word”. This to me takes identity in being an anarchist, but not in how others may perceive one as an ‘Anarchist’ simply by projection that may manifest with receiving the input of that label ‘anarchist‘. Modern Crowley may have ironically used the hashtag “#notallAnarchists” should the Book of Lies been tweets instead of material published in 1912.
Crowley’s actions in life were often anarchic. Look at his pompous character parading, his ‘de-lewding’ public demonstrations, public ritual, his long history of emboldened acts which make his biography so fascinating, if they are all to be believed entirely. One instance that has had its validity questioned can be found in Crowley’s autobiographic Confessions where there’s a mention of Jacob Epstein’s statue which stood upon Oscar Wilde’s grave. The statue happened to bare a penis so authorities had it covered, and Crowley claims to be the one who had planned to, and then successfully did remove the covering on November 5th, and in doing so the happening received attention in the press. Epstein would say that “a band of artists and poets… made a raid upon the monument” and removed the cover, but Crowley takes sole responsibility. Whether he did this specific event or not doesn’t change too much with what I’m trying to highlight. Aleister Crowley acted wild, he was unconventional and consequently called names in the press, and was found swirled about in the mouths of the general populace. He had a reputation as a public figure, and he often wrote with awareness of who he was, and what he was perceived to be as. His writings utilized humour, paradox, shock, beauty, and prose.
“I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word”, he starts. So, rather than having a sole takeaway at the end of reading the chapter along the lines of “he used the words ‘for feudalism’, so therefor he is a feudalist”, I would gleam deeper into the meaning. “I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word: your brain is too dense for any known explosive to affect it.”
This now is where Crowley’s chosen title comes into play. Louis Lingg was an anarchist and bomb maker who had famously died in a prison cell, when he had placed a blasting cap in his mouth, blowing off his lower jaw and causing great damage to his face. He remained alive for 6 hours and reportedly spent some of it repeatedly writing “Hoch die anarchie!” (Hurrah for anarchy!) on the cell stones in his blood. The line by Crowley at one level of interpretation could be saying that the public who would label Crowley an Anarchist, in terms of an extreme view, to say that his ‘magick’ and acts were so terrible that he may pose danger, or act out in violence, that they are dense minded and that no known explosive, no matter how strong or capable it may be, nothing will penetrate or effect them as they are shielded in their ignorance. At the surface, it appears Crowley may be speaking on behalf of himself, but it’d be a line that could be stretched to universal application. He could be talking from the perspective of a mystic, a perceived mad-man, a mind of genius who may be questioned for their actions and independence in thought. Or even the everyday person who skirts rules, laws, and commands with their agency out of laziness, pride, or even with justified purpose. We all want to be anarchists and live without rule dictating our action, to live unimpeded by social or arbitrary structure imposed upon us by birth, but the reality and consequence of chaotic unstructured living would take away a lot of stability and safety we take for granted in our constructed reality tunnel-vision.
“I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word: fancy a Policeman let loose on Society!” So here Crowley now associates a Policeman to the same behaviour of an Anarchist such as one Louis Lingg. The anarchists at the Haymarket Affair were distanced from by many who had previously supported the Anarchist’s movement. After the violence, lost lives, and chaos, they repudiated such violent tactics and considered the ends as self-defeating. The intention that drove the anarchists to such drastic and cruel means of act was misguided, though they may have been acting in what they perceived to be as good and just deeds. Just as a policeman who is generally upholding what is good and just may be corrupted in their power to act out of interest for maintaining and upholding the law. Or ‘law’ has usurped Law, and carriers of light are stomped out. Sadly many drawn to such a powerful position as a police officer may need strict guidelines and boundaries, observation and discipline to keep them reigned in, and to have them unable to be loosed upon society. Crowley’s end line mentioning the emancipator, or the liberator, does the Policeman wish to steer the society into freedom, away from vice and destructive behavior? Is there good motivation in their action as the Anarchist who rallies and demonstrates their want of agency? Are both sides viewing themselves as emancipators? Surely, I’d say.
Crowley’s Book of Lies chapters are all short, paradoxical, invoke thought, use contradictory language purposefully, as they are to be read and appreciated in Samadhi, or be used to cultivate Samadhi. Israel Regardie called the book’s writings koan-like for this reason (koans are Zen case studies that at times use similar multiple-meaning layered poetry, comedy and paradox). The study of hermeneutics can be applied fruitfully to Crowley’s writings, which have made them so striking and interesting to those who have devoted great time to their study and appreciation. These writings are to be read, meditated upon, placed down, then at another time, in a few more years even, returned to, and new insights appear and new meanings form. Though Crowley guides us a little and offers aid, as he provided commentary for much of his work. The Book of Lies being no exception, for half of the book is its commentary.
For a while the takeaway of this chapter for me personally, was the focus on the liberator or awakened one who returns to society after their awakening. Crowley wrote in Book 4 of enlightened men returning to society after a disappearance, from Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed, each of whom came back to preach a new law. Crowley basically pushed the idea forward that there is nothing special of those prophets, that each individual can come into their own law, as each can speak the universal truths with their own tongue. In fact, in Liber B Vel Magi, there is a curse upon the Grade for those who recognize themselves at it, and it states that they must always speak their law. “And woe, woe, woe, yea woe, and again woe, woe, woe unto seven times be His that preacheth not His law to men!” Louis Lingg to me is presenting the issue of spreading one’s law, while also accepting everyone else doing the same in kind. The Law must be love; a reception of other’s Law with acceptance and survival of your own. Sometimes one does not integrate back into the mundane world on their return to earth, and they wish to make their external vision look like the internal vision which may not have been fully universalized, and is specific to that individual. This could be the often good intentioned doer who has experienced samadhi, but has not realized samadhi. Is one looking to liberate and uplift, but is in reality harming and hindering progress and proper evolution.
Crowley established in Thelema that there is personal mystical responsibility, we all must realize our own Nature. In Zen it is called the Buddha Nature. This is an internally realized truth, it cannot be spoken and spread. Think as example, the person who looks to convert not, BoTL III:42 reads, ‘The ordeals thou shalt oversee thyself, save only the blind ones. Refuse none, but thou shalt know & destroy the traitors. I am Ra-Hoor-Khuit; and I am powerful to protect my servant. Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not over much! Them that seek to entrap thee, to overthrow thee, them attack without pity or quarter; & destroy them utterly. Swift as a trodden serpent turn and strike! Be thou yet deadlier than he! Drag down their souls to awful torment: laugh at their fear: spit upon them!’
Crowley established the Law as Love, Agape, and that it is the law required to establish Thelema (Will). We cannot be doing pure will without love; systems which oppress and restrict love need to be overturned for progress and evolution.
Anyways, back to Louis Lingg, Crowley’s comment says, “Paragraph 1 explains that Frater P. sees no use in the employment of such feeble implements as bombs. Nor does he agree even with the aim of the Anarchists, since, although Anarchists themselves need no restraint, not daring to drink cocoa, lest their animal passions should be aroused (as Olivia Haddon assures my favourite Chela), yet policemen, unless most severely repressed, would be dangerous wild beasts.“
Here Crowley says loudly that he isn’t an anarchist by label. If using the non-personal interpretation we can opt for an interpretation of this being that a mystic or magician does not cause change through drastic chaotic and uncontrolled outbursts like a bomb. The conversation of Louis Lingg quickly passes, was likely used for comedic effect and established the tone of the piece effectively by appearing in the title. Crowley’s writing often reminds me of a Rube Goldberg machine where associations build from Qabalah to Gematria, and each piece can trigger another and eventually you end up with a result. In this piece the balance act of Anarchist and Policeman are played with by Crowley, both being emphasized as stations with their capitalization in his writing. They may even be seen on one level as metaphor for the mystical balance of Geburah and Chesed. The matter could be interpreted through many layers, from making the switch of being about specific subject matter in (an individual) Louis Lingg, or Crowley being self-referential, to the idea of division of other, finding balance, moving from external subject matter. The forces of Gevurah and Chesed, severity and mercy, strength and lovingkindness… the balance of Gevurah and Chesed dictates how one deals with what they encounter in the external world.
Yet in the external representation, the police are needed for those who would be completely against the law, against any signs or calls for order. Yet what is order imposed, to Crowley, if it is not in accord with the Law of Thelema? Crowley looked to establish Order by uttering Truth and the Law: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will.” To the wild beast policeman inside all of us, should they not be repressed or constrained, we may wish to dictate what others are to say or do, or be prone to form judgments on how others choose to be or what they devote their time to, to condemn how they act. Yet, if they are abiding, and if you are abiding in the Law of Thelema, you must let them be and alter the limitation on your psyche that denies the experience of others, or what is not ‘you’.
“While there exists the burgess, the hunting man, or any man with ideals less than Shelley’s and self-discipline less than Loyola’s — in short, any man who falls far short of MYSELF — I am against Anarchy, and for Feudalism.” I believe that here Crowley is referencing Percy Bysshe Shelley, the English romantic poet whose work was mostly inspired by social justice and whose work is applauded worldwide, is held in great admiration and dressed in laurels. Loyola being mentioned is likely St. Ignatius of Loyola, who famously founded the Jesuits, and who devised the Spiritual Exercises which took a month to complete. They were composed with the intention of helping participants in religious retreats to discern the will of God in their lives, leading to a personal commitment to follow Jesus whatever the cost. These (Shelley and Loyola) are extremes of recognized genius and dedication.
So Crowley says there exists the wealthy and padded, the capable survivalist, and those who fall short of the genius of Shelley or the self-discipline of Loyola (and then jokes by saying those who do are those who who fall short of “MYSELF” (ie the Ego of Self — Crowley’s, but perhaps speaking here for mankind’s too). We often will view others as foolish, and have that sense that we know what is best or that we are distinct from the mass that is Other.
As an aside, imagine how the world would be if people all were to do Loyola’s meditations? Better yet, full on holy possession, what would their performance of Jesus look like? How dramatic would the need and urgency be for them to act to save this planet and the souls upon it? How drastic would their acts need to be to attract attention required to spread their message? What would be the essence of the message, beyond Love? What extreme forms can the lesson of ‘love’ take? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and all that. Though if it were not just Jesus, there, isolated alone in that one body… what if there were a gathering, a group, a movement, or an entire world of Jesus? The dramatic acts and the need of them drop away and are replaced with sense of serenity, bliss and enjoyment… what labour beckons then? What creation then takes place?
This idealism; this projection on the planet and its residents; this demanding the animals cease eating each other, and that mankind is not to act mad… what is the solution? Crowley’s form of anarchy was to deviate off the path of normalcy, to study mystical mind states, traditions and practices, and then pushed his knowledge to the best of his ability into the collective so that others could pick up the wisdom offered and utilize it for their advancement on the path. His solution for mankind was Thelema, which is not fascism, or feudalism, but is pointing at the understanding of Samadhi. Thelema is summed up repeatedly as ‘do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’, and that ‘love is the law’. Agape (gematric value of 93) is the love referred to, Agape being the Greco-Christian term referring to an unconditional love.
Others may look to more dramatic acts to stress their points, to demand for a universe of love. Crowley in Louis Lingg warns, “Every ’emancipator’ has enslaved the free.” Interestingly, emancipates’ etymological roots come from the latin ēmancipō which could mean as a verb ‘I emancipate’, but also could mean ‘I alienate‘. One shouldn’t alienate themselves and get lost internally in their quest to help others, to liberate mankind from its wrongs and to remove hate from the collective mind that festers in corners and sometimes marches in the street. Often a dramatic outburst or uncontrolled action will lead to repercussions which lessen the chance of similar activities happening in the future, which mean stricter controls and a more authoritarian approach are installed to garner better control of the masses. A self-defeating end for an Anarchist, indeed.
Reign yourself in, reign the ‘policeman’ in, maintain Law, understand that you are you, but that you exist within a society that needs to live under a shared law for harmony to exist. What else can you do, but use your voice to spread awareness of what that Law is to be and to produce art and song, movies and plays to raise the banner of that law for all to come to understand? Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, love is the law, love under will. This was Aleister Crowley’s gift to the world, and he wouldn’t take it back if you shoved it back, refusing to receive it.
Don’t lose perspective on the daily life. Don’t lose sight of the mystical. When there’s no more distinguishing, what potential is there to be explored when everyone is doing their true will?