Chapter Six. The Aim Is Being: Calcutta
For leisure in Calcutta, Crowley felt it best to follow the line of least resistance and attend the races, something which interested him little, though, as in Mexico, he did take interest in the psychology of the swindler. A horse had arrived in the city tipped to be a surefire winner. Of course it attracted bets, but lost race after race, until the odds of success duly declined. Crowley calculated that having been pulled by its owners to such a degree, the time had come to bet on it. Needless to say, he won a pocketful of rupees, but obtained no satisfaction. Fathoming the bestial mind of the criminal was no joy and the winnings did not compensate.
My cynical disgust with the corrupt pettiness of humanity, far from being assuaged by the consciousness of my ability to outmanoeuvre it, saddened me. I loved mankind; I wanted everybody to be an enthusiastic aspirant to the absolute. I expected everybody to be as sensitive about honour as I was myself. My disillusionment drove me more and more to determine that the only thing worth doing was to save humanity from the horror of its own ignorant heartlessness. But I was still innocent to the point of imbecility. I had not analysed human conduct: I did not understand in the least the springs of human action. Its blind bestiality was a puzzle which appalled me, yet I could not even begin to estimate its elements.
His health did not help matters. Down with malaria since leaving Ceylon, ever since New Year he’d suffered from ague, fever, indigestion, and mental depression. He sought comfort in Deussen’s account of Vedanta, the flower of Hinduism, which, while it was certainly a progressive step from what Crowley called the “crude animism” of the Vedas, seemed still to push him back toward Buddhism. His diary reveals the depth of thought going on in his questing mind.
Early morning walk--deep meditation. Developed a sort of inverted Manichaeism. Nature as evil and fatal force developing within itself (unwittingly) a suicidal will called Buddha or Christ.
The entry shows up the apparent paradox, or indeed contradiction, within Darwinian theory when applied to the human mind and experience. If Nature evolves solely through selection of traits necessary for rude survival, and the “mind” is deemed a “part” of Nature, how is it that the human mind can thoroughly entertain the idea that Nature itself is a negative, or evil aspect, which, in Manichaeism, for example, is regarded in its materiality as an evil to be fled from? As for Buddhist doctrine, Nature is regarded, when we perceive it, as the home of sorrow and corruption.
It is a fallacy that the Absolute must be All-Good, etc. There is not an Intelligence directing law=line of least resistance. Its own selfishness has not even the wit to prevent Buddha arising.
We cannot call nature evil. ‘Fatal’ is the exact word [certainly in the Buddhist perspective]. Necessity implies stupidity--this the chief attribute of Nature. As to “Supreme Intelligence,” consider how many billion years were required to develop even so low a thing as emotion.
This is a typical chip off the block of Crowley’s intuitive and analytical genius. Meanwhile, in quest of perfect detachment, Allan had taken his vows as a bhikkhu, donning the yellow robe at the Lamma Sayadaw “Kyoung” (or monastery) on Burma’s west coast, at Akyab (now Sittwe). Crowley thought it a good idea to cross the Bay of Bengal to visit him, and to combine that adventure with a greater one: to cross the Arakan Hills, the barrier between the Irrawaddy valley and the coast. Reputed to be all but impassable, even the north Burmese army, when fighting the British in 1825, were not expected to survive a march through the Arakans to the east. “I have always had this peculiar passion for putting myself in poisonous perils,” wrote Crowley of his motive. “Its source is presumably my congenital masochism, and the Travellers’ Tales of Paley Gardner had determined its form of expression.” So Crowley determined to follow the initial route taken by the first British military expeditions to Burma: sail to Rangoon, then follow the Irrawaddy to Thayetmyo, north of Prome. He would then hire a guide and head west across the Arakans to Akyab, where he would surprise his Buddhist friend somewhat in the manner of Stanley and Livingstone.
elected to join him on the adventure. Edward Thornton When Crowley averred to Thornton and himself sharing philosophical interests, he could have been thinking of a visit Crowley made in Calcutta, as Thornton’s guest, to the famous Asiatic Society of Bengal, in which Sir William Jones had first drawn attention to Sanskrit’s affinities with Greek and Latin, so launching the “Aryan” race fallacy. It was exciting for me to locate the printed “Proceedings” of the Society, which reveal its monthly General Meeting was held on Wednesday, January 8, 1902, at 9pm.
After the minutes were delivered, including proposals for disposing of present premises and acquiring a new site and building, the following papers were read: Rev. T. G. Bailey’s account of the secret language of a tribe of hereditary thieves and cattle poisoners in the Punjab; “On Trilokinatha (Shiva) in the Kalpa Valley,” by Dutch Sanskritist, Jean Philippe Vogel LL.D.-- who worked with the Archaeological Survey of India--concerning different representations and names for the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in the Chandrabhaga Valley, the southern side of the mid-Himalayan Range, and Patan, Nepal; and “On the Organisation of Caste by Ballala Sen,” by Mahamahopadhyaya Haraprasad Shastri, M.A. The latter paper drew on newly discovered ancient sources also used for a paper on the existence of the Ancient Magi in India, delivered at the previous General Meeting. Crowley would undoubtedly have found great interest in the latter gentleman’s researches, and in the rare, exotic and scientific character of the other papers.