Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
What it was like to be a direct student of Aleister Crowley’s is a question often answered negatively. After all, the man has a reputation of being cruel to his students, and in some cases this may have been so. However, the evidence suggests that his students were treated in dramatically different manners depending on his personal relationship with them and during which stage of Crowley’s life they got involved with him. Nonetheless, it could be argued that he was overly demanding and at times an ineffectual teacher. But this is an incomplete picture.
Thankfully, we have many letters from the likes of Soror Fiat Yod, Karl Germer, Grady McMurtry, Frieda Harris, Jane Wolfe, Frater Achad, and many others which paint another picture of Crowley.
To me, it is better to ask what he taught, than what kind of teacher he was.
So today I would like to look at some of the correspondences between Crowley and one of his students, Friedrich Lekve, which deal with one of the most important aspects of Crowley’s teaching, the Holy Guardian Angel.
Friedrich Lekve, who was a 5=6 of the A∴A∴ and 9th degree of the O.T.O., was born on February 26, 1904 in the picturesque town of Wesel, Germany, located along the Rhine. He met Martha Küntzel in 1936, and shortly thereafter she became his mentor. Küntzel informed Lekve that several of Crowley’s paintings had been in storage there in Germany for many years.
Lekve then wrote Crowley on October 8th, 1936 to inform him that approximately six crates full of paintings, which Crowley had left behind in Berlin after his exhibition there in 1931, had been relocated. Crowley immediately cast Lekve’s horoscope, hoping that it would provide some guidance as to how best to enable him to acquire and return the crates. These paintings had been originally exhibited in October of 1931 at Karl Nierendorf’s Galeria Porza, which at that time was one of the most prominent galleries in Weimar Germany. Arguably, this exhibition would mark the pinnacle of Crowley’s artistic career. Sadly, the vast majority of the paintings from this exhibition are believed to have been lost, though several may survive in private collections.
Lekve would later travel to London to meet Crowley in person. Crowley recorded in his journal that he found Lekve to be “very rich and intelligent”. In September of 1937, Lekve wrote Crowley begging him not to send any more letters, as he was living in fear of the Gestapo. However, after the war, Lekve renewed their correspondence in April of 1946. This pleased Crowley, who recorded in his journal, “Hurrah! Friedrich Lekve”.
In the later part of 1947, members of Agapé Lodge in the United States would send C.A.R.E. packages to struggling German Thelemites and it was Ray and Mildred Burlingame who took Lekve’s family under their wing.
Only a few letters survive of the correspondences between Lekve and Crowley, however, excerpts from several letters were later published by Lekve in Herbert Fritsche’s journal Merlin in September of 1949. It is from this article that these extracts regarding the Holy Guardian Angel are culled. These are likely Crowley’s last recorded thoughts on this matter as they were written approximately a year prior to his death.
The last message Lekve received from Crowley was a copy of Liber OZ. It has been reported that he produced the first German translation of this liber in 1949, and not Metzger, who claimed to first publish it in 1955, though I have not been able to verify this.
In the early 1950s, Lekve, who was particularly interested in the Kabbalah and the works of Gershom Scholem, developed his own form of Thelema which he would call “Thelema Chassidim” and to this end published his own Thelemic lessons.
Here are the excerpts from Lekve’s article, (quoting Crowley) in regards to the Holy Guardian Angel:
- “The Holy Guardian Angel is more than a man; he can be considered as a being who has already passed the stage of human incarnation, and the intimate relationship which he maintains with an individual is that of friendship, brotherhood, or even of paternity. It is not, and I want to formally emphasize this, a simple abstraction of your ‘self’. This is the reason why I have always irrevocably stressed that what has been vulgarly called the higher self is an execrable heresy and a dangerous illusion.”
- “Indeed, there cannot be any kind of doubt regarding the existence of intelligence far more advanced than what can be attributed to man (in the ordinary sense)… Imagine that you were orphaned and entrusted to a tutor whose knowledge appeared inconceivable in relation to the state of your own. Imagine if, in your childish aptitude, you were baffled by some problem; the clearest solution would be to go to your tutor and ask them to enlighten you. It goes without saying that it is up to them, as a tutor, to do their best to help you…. You must always remain aware that your Holy Guardian Angel has more knowledge of your nature than yourself, and also that it is expressly their duty to share this higher knowledge. Always remember that the Angel lives in a sphere or plane that is entirely different from your normal faculty of understanding. Obtaining Knowledge and Conversation with the Angel is the easiest way to approach this higher order of existence. This method of operating, understandable by any intelligent man, is what we call Magick. Naturally, with proper conduct, it is possible to strengthen your union with the Holy Guardian Angel, over time, such that you are able to maintain yourself in the spiritual sphere of its existence. There is, however, yet another path from what I can see, from which one may reach this state of spiritual elevation. One can, at least theoretically, develop their whole consciousness so that they will be able to move in this higher plane as the Holy Guardian Angel does. In such a case, we can do without the need to assume the existence of another being (that is to say, that of the Guardian Angel)… During my life, I have been working hard in order to expand human consciousness. And my doctrine on this matter can legitimately be called the doctrine of yogis. But it remains for me to point out that, in my teachings, I have always warned disciples of the danger of this method of experimentation. That is to say: It is never possible to control the results obtained in the usual scientific sense. It is always too easy to find a subjective explanation for any phenomena. And considering that the greatest danger stems from selfish vanity, I do not believe that I am going beyond the limits of my duty in seeking to advise disciples in regards to this dangerous undertaking.”
(I would like to thank Frank Godard for his aid in translating these excerpts.)
Love is the law, love under will