Episode 10 - LIBER LEGIS!


          Traversing the short blocks from Court back to Chancery Lane at a crisp pace, I had barely time to devour half a cold mutton pie before being conscripted into service as Crowley's cashier. Between eight thirty and nine I collected eight shillings each from the odd visitors Crowley ushered into his little theatre; the room of black and white mirrors having been locked and certain of Crowley's more favoured relics being removed and also sealed up within. "Great thieves, this crowd... especially if they believe the show not up to expectations," Bennett whispered, glaring from the wings at our patrons... perhaps thirty, almost all male, a strange aggregation of elderly gents with furtive eyes, students and young working men of boisterous mien. On Crowley's word, I descended to lock the front door and placed a placard thereupon... Sold Out!... as I returned, the lights dimmed and Bennett, having pulled a long white robe with crimson trim over his waistcoat, took the stage.

          "Welcome to the Temple of Atlantean Adepts where Love is the Law, Love under Will. Liber Legis is bold, virile, even ecstatic and, while there is delicacy, it is a delicacy born of strength. Join with me in making the sign of the Pentagram. Do as I do, do as thou wilt... will is Love and Love is the Law."

          Bennett next raised a dagger, drawing a few gasps from the more timid, who apprehended having entered into a Thuggee circle. He touched its tip to his forehead.

          "Say as I say... A-teh! which in English means 'Thou Art!'"

          The audience being slow to respond, Bennett commanded them once again and fingers rose to foreheads, throats opening to the Atlantean invocation.

          "A-teh! Draw your fingers down between your breasts," Bennett commanded. "Mal-kuth!

          The mention of breasts drew chortles from several young men. Bennett seemed offended, Crowley... manning the lights... smiled.

          "It always begins so," he told me. "They'll settle down soon enough... and if not, well, Alan has an elixir for that!"

          "Mal-kuth!," Bennett repeated, "'The Kingdom!' Right shoulder... Ve-Geburah, "and the power"... left shoulder... Ve-Gedulah, "and the glory"... downward and clasp hands... Le-Olam, "for ever..." point upwards, Amen!" These last proved too esoteric for one of the dimmest and drunkest of the youths.

          "E's a bleeding wankers' party, 'et is!"

          "Patience!" Bennett scolded. "Next, Lady Cybele shall bring the loving cup..."

          "One of my conquests in the Far East," Crowley smirked. "She's half Maori, from one of those islands, Cameron, her Christian name is Leyla but they don't set much store by Leviticus down in New Zealand. You'll see these rough boys gentled down soon enough..."

          "Has Mrs. Simpson been to one of these performances?" I carelessly thought to ask. During my tenancy, I had grown accustomed to the frequency with which Crowley took adepts of the fairer sex into his quarters for "instruction"... the devotion of Mrs. Simpson to her tutor rather than lawful husband having... as I have already noted, haven't I... reached the attention of Crowley's occult adversaries. My landlord responding with only a frown, I engaged upon safer avenues of inquiry.

          "What is she giving them to drink?" I asked.

          "Only fruit juice," Crowley smiled, "... oh, and with a little this, a dash of that. Mostly Bennett's doing, he's the chemist here. Have you noticed it's always the loud ones, the hostiles who swill rather than sip and so suffer... or, rather, delight in the consequences."

          "Now to introduce the Lady Cybele," Bennett declared... "from St. Petersberg, here is... Count Svareff!"

          "Many gates for the wicked to pass through on the path to Paradise," the magickian allowed, "many the names by which they travel. That's my cue!"

          Crowley having pulled a Russian tunic over his shirt; I was surprised, but not excessively so, to hear him affect a near perfect Muscovian accent. "Seekers of beauty... 'vat iss the essence of the word? Azur as Symbwolists conceive? or, as Edison vass reputed to have told learned Parisians, radiant presence? Da! All are manifested in the Lady Cybele, satisficer of passions sacred und profane."

          Lady Cybele had removed her blouse... which drew more of an appreciative hum rather than the war-whoops one might expect, a testament to the efficacy of Bennett's position. She raised her bow and such dreadful noise welled from so tiny a violin that I, too, reached for the dregs of the Loving Cup despairingly. So refreshed, the music began improving, distinctly! I blinked, seduced... the Temple swirled in agreeable Oriental colors.

          There came a sudden puff of smoke, and I beheld a dancer of veils, lissome as Salome with whom I found my soul at large upon the astral plane until Salome removed the last veil, revealing... Bennett! No time was I granted in scrying this perplexity, for Crowley had taken stage again to declaim to Leyla's fiddling:

          "I, Svareff, invite your renunciation of law und of all religions; I seek patronage for my Abbe Theleme, to be opened quite soon under sunny Sicilian skies... a grand refuge for ve Rabelaisians of the century at hand. No hypocrites nor bigots may enter this company, especially no lawyers, nyet! only noble gentlemen and fair ladies... come! Let us pay homage to Wod, our fiery Father; to He, mother of vaters, whose tresses are knotted on horns of their son Wau... and to the Inwisible Fourth Power of Tetragrammaton - which is Money! Bennett shall collect your donations at the door, also Edison cylinders of Lady Cybele's selections can be had, photographs too, at one and six..."

          All too soon the patrons, lurching from agreeable torpidity, understood the performance to have reached its end. Crowley had designated me to hawk his Edisons but, while the photographs of Layla... autographed by that Princess of the Pacific if one chose... were swiftly gone, I remained shuffling and smiling to no effect as Atlanteans escaped to either side of me like gas from a balloon. Soon there remained only a British officer with medals congratulating Svareff and two butchers, still in bloody aprons. Bennett, clothed now, packed away chairs and debris... my landlord, having collected what donations and fees that he could without my help shot me a glance of absolute malevolence over his shoulder while guiding the lovely Leyla towards his suite. The Captain excused himself with a salute and some words I failed to take account of, and I stumbled to my room and fell into a slumber profound with such disturbing dreams as had not touched me since the horror of that night of the Wolf and Skull; in the last, I found myself again removed to prison, but the jailer who shook me was Crowley himself... it was already morning and we had our appointment at the Court.

          I apologized profusely for my conduct but the magickian waved off the previous night. "You have sipped of the cup of Pan," Crowley smirked, "and so Pan has had the pleasure of drinking you." Swelled with confidence, we crossed Fleet Street to the Courts where our Magistrate, freshly wigged and powdered was ready to pronounce his verdict.


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