The Soldier and the Hunchback



Running and returning, like the Cherubim, we may now resume our attempt to drill our hunchback friend into a presentable soldier. The digression will not have been all digression, either; for it will have thrown a deal of light on the question of the limitations of scepticism.
We have questioned the Malkuth point of view; it appears absurd, be it agreed. But the Tiphereth position is unshaken; Tiphereth needs no telling that Malkuth is absurd. When we turn our artillery against Tiphereth, that too crumbles; but Kether frowns above us.
Attack Kether, and it falls; but the Yetziratic Malkuth is still there … until we reach Kether of Atziluth and the Infinite Light, and Space, and Nothing.
So then we retire up the path, fighting rear-guard actions; at every moment a soldier is slain by a hunchback; but as we retire there is always a soldier just by us.
Until the end. The end? Buddha thought the supply of hunchbacks infinite; but why should not the soldiers themselves be infinite in number?
However that may be, here is the point; it takes a moment for a hunchback to kill his man, and the farther we get from our base the longer it takes. You may crumble to ashes the dream-world of a boy, as it were, between your fingers; but before you can bring the physical universe tumbling about a man's ears he requires to drill his hunchbacks so devilish well that they are terribly like soldiers themselves. And a question capable of shaking the consciousness of Samadhi could, I imagine, give long odds to one of Frederick's grenadiers.
It is useless to attack the mystic by asking him if he is quite sure Samadhi is good for his poor health; 'tis like asking the huntsman to be very careful, please, not to hurt the fox.
The ultimate Question, the one that really knocks Samadhi to pieces, is such a stupendous Idea that it is far more of a ! than all previous !'s whatever, for all its ? form.
And the name of that Question is Nibbana.
Take this matter of the soul.
When Mr. Judas McCabbage[1] asks the Man in the Street why he believes in a soul, the Man stammers out that he has always heard so; naturally McCabbage has no difficulty in proving to him by biological methods that he has no soul; and with a sunny smile each passes on his way.
But McCabbage is wasted on the philosopher whose belief in a soul rests on introspection; we must have heavier metal; Hume will serve our turn, may be.
But Hume in his turn becomes perfectly futile, pitted against the Hindu mystic, who is in constant intense enjoyment of his new-found Atman. It takes a Buddha-gun to knock "his" castle down.
Now the ideas of McCabbage are banal and dull; those of Hume are live and virile; there is a joy in them greater than the joy of the Man in the Street. So too the Buddha-thought, Anatta, is a more splendid conception than the philosopher's Dutch-doll-like Ego, or the rational artillery of Hume.
This weapon, too, that has destroyed our lesser, our illusionary universes, ever revealing one more real, shall we not wield it with divine ecstasy? Shall we not, too, perceive the inter-dependence of the Questions and the Answers, the necessary connection of the one with the other, so that (just as 0 x ì is an indefinite) we destroy the absolutism of either ? or ! by their alternation and balance, until in our series ? ! ? ! ? ! ? … ! ? ! ? … we care nothing as to which may prove the final term, any single term being so negligible a quantity in relation to the vastness of the series? Is it not a series of geometrical progression, with a factor positive and incalculably vast?
In the light of the whole process, then, we perceive that there is no absolute value in the swing of the pendulum, thought its shaft lengthen, its rate grow slower, and its sweep wider at every swing.
What should interest us is the consideration of the Point from which it hangs, motionless at the height of things! We are unfavourably placed to observe this, desperately clinging as we are to the bob of the pendulum, sick with our senseless swinging to and fro in the abyss!
We must climb up the shaft to reach that point — but — wait one moment! How obscure and subtle has our simile become! Can we attach any true meaning to the phrase? I doubt it, seeing what we have taken for the limits of the swing. True, it may be that at the end the swing is always 360° so that the !-point and the ?-point coincide; but that is not the same thing as having no swing at all, unless we make kinematics identical with statics.
What is to be done? How shall such mysteries be uttered?
Is this how it is that the true Path of the Wise is said to lie in a totally different plane from all his advance in the path of Knowledge, and of Trance? We have already been obliged to take the Fourth Dimension to illustrate (if not explain) the nature of Samadhi.
Ah, say the adepts, Samadhi is not the end , but the beginning. You must regard Samadhi as the normal state of mind which enables you to begin your researches, just as waking is the state from which you rise to Samadhi, sleep the state from which you rose to waking. And only from Sammasamadhi — continuous trance of the right kind — can you rise up as it were on tiptoe and peer through the clouds unto the mountains.
Now of course it is really awfully decent of the adepts to take all that trouble over us, and to put it so nicely and clearly. All we have to do, you see, is to acquire Sammasamadhi, and then rise on tiptoe. Just so!
But there there are the other adepts. Hard at him! Little brother, he says, let us rather consider that as the pendulum swings more and more slowly every time, it must ultimately stop, as soon as the shaft is of infinite length. Good! then it isn't a pendulum at all but a Mahalingam — The Mahalingam of Shiva ("Namo Shivaya namaha Aum!") which is all I ever thought it was; all you have to do is to keep swinging hard — I know it's hook-swinging! — and you get there in the End. Why trouble to swing? First, because you are bound to swing, whether you like it or not; second, because your attention is thereby distracted from those lumbar muscles in which the hook is so very firmly fixed; third, because after all it's a ripping good game; fourth, because you want to get on, and even to seem to progress is better than standing still. A treadmill is admittedly good exercise.
True, the question, "Why become an Arahat?" should precede, "How become an Arahat?" but an unbiassed man will easily cancel the first question with "Why not?" — the How is not so easy to get rid of. Then, from the standpoint of the Arahat himself, perhaps this "Why did I become an Arahat?" and "How did I become an Arahat?" have but a single solution!
In any case, we are wasting our time — we are as ridiculous with our Arahats as Herod the Tetrarch with his peacocks! We pose Life with the question Why? and the first answer is: To obtain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
To attach meaning to this statement we must obtain that Knowledge and Conversation: and when we have done that, we may proceed to the next Question. It is no good asking it now.
"There are purse-proud, penniless ones who stand at the door of the tavern, and revile the guests."[2]
We attach little importance to the Reverend Out-at-Elbows, thundering in Bareboards Chapel that the rich man gets no enjoyment from his wealth.
Good, then. Let us obtain the volume entitled "The Book of the Sacred Magick of Abramelin the Mage"; or the magical writings of that holy illuminated Man of God, Captain Fuller, and carry out fully their instructions.
And only when we have succeeded, when we have put a colossal ! against our vital ? need we inquire whether after all the soldier is not going to develop spinal curvature.
Let us take the first step; let us sing:
"I do not ask to see
The distant path; one step's enough for me."
But (you will doubtless say) I pith your ? itself with another ?: Why question life at all? Why not remain "a clean-living Irish gentleman" content with his handicap, and contemptuous of card and pencil? Is not the Buddha's goad "Everything is sorrow" little better than a currish whine? What do I care for old age, disease, and death? I'm a man, and a Celt at that. I spit on your snivelling Hindu prince, emasculate with debauchery in the first place, and asceticism in the second. A weak, dirty, paltry cur, sir, your Gautama!
Yes, I think I have no answer to that. The sudden apprehension of some vital catastrophe may have been the exciting cause of my conscious devotion to the attainment of Adeptship — but surely the capacity was there, inborn. Mere despair and desire can do little; anyway, the first impulse of fear was the passing spasm of an hour; the magnetism of the path itself was the true lure. It is as foolish to ask me "Why do you adep?" as to ask God "Why do you pardon?" C'est son mêtier.
I am not so foolish as to think that my doctrine can ever gain the ear of the world. I expect that ten centuries hence the "nominal Crowleians" will be as pestilent and numerous a body as the "nominal Christians" are to-day; for (at present) I have been able to devise no mechanism for excluding them. Rather, perhaps, should I seek to find them a niche in the shrine, just as Hinduism provides alike for those capable of the Upanishads and those whose intelligence hardly reaches to the Tantras. In short, one must abandon the reality of religion for a sham, so that the religion may be universal enough for those few who are capable of its reality to nestle to its breast, and nurse their nature on its starry milk. But we anticipate!
My message is then twofold; to the greasy bourgeois I preach discontent; I shock him, I stagger him, I cut away earth from under his feet, I turn him upside down, I give him hashish and make him run amok, I twitch his buttocks with the red-hot tongs of my Sadistic fancy — until he feels uncomfortable.
But to the man who is already as uneasy as St. Lawrence on his silver grill, who feels the spirit stir in him, even as a woman feels, and sickens at, the first leap of the babe in her womb, to him I bring the splendid vision, the perfume and the glory, the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. And to whosoever hath attained that height will I put a further Question, announce a further Glory.
It is my misfortune and not my fault that I am bound to deliver this elementary Message.
"Man has two sides; one to face the world with,
One to show a woman when he loves her."
We must pardon Browning his bawdy jest; for his truth is ower true! But it is your own fault if you are the world instead of the beloved; and only see of me what Moses saw of God!
It is disgusting to have to spend one's life jetting dirt in the face of the British public in the hope that in washing it they may wash off the acrid grease of their commercialism, the saline streaks of their hypocritical tears, the putrid perspiration of their morality, the dribbling slobber of their sentimentality and their religion. And they don't wash it! …
But let us take a less unpleasing metaphor, the whip! As some schoolboy poet repeatedly wrote, his rimes as poor as Edwin Arnold, his metre as erratic and as good as Francis Thompson, his good sense and frank indecency a match for Browning!
"Can't be helped; must be done —
So …"
Nay! 'tis a bad, bad rime.
And only after the scourge that smites shall come the rod that consoles, if I may borrow a somewhat daring simile from Abdullah Haji of Shiraz and the twenty-third Psalm.
Well, I would much prefer to spend my life at the rod; it is wearisome and loathsome to be constantly flogging the tough hide of Britons, whom after all I love. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son that He receiveth." I shall really be glad if a few of you will get it over, and come and sit on daddy's knee!
The first step is the hardest; make a start, and I will soon set the hunchback lion and the soldier unicorn fighting for your crown. And they shall lie down together at the end, equally glad, equally weary; while sole and sublime that crown of thine (brother!) shall glitter in the frosty Void of the abyss, its twelve stars filling that silence and solitude with a music and a motion that are more silent and more still than they; thou shalt sit throned on the Invisible, thine eyes fixed upon That which we call Nothing, because it is beyond Everything attainable by thought, or trance, thy right hand gripping the azure rod of Light, thy left hand clasped upon the scarlet scourge of Death; thy body girdled with a snake more brilliant than the sun, its name Eternity; thy mouth curved moonlike in a smile, in the invisible kiss of Nuit, our Lady of the Starry Abodes; thy body's electric flesh stilled by sheer might to a movement closed upon itself in the controlled fury of Her love — nay, beyond all these Images art thou (little brother!) who art passed from I and Thou, and He unto That which hath no Name, no Image. …
Little brother, give me thy hand; for the first step is hard.

[1] Joseph McCabe, a "rationalist" / atheist writer of the period — T.S.

[2] Liber LXV, IV:12

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