Interview with Lon Milo DuQuette, author of Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot
Oct 24, 2004
Author: Todd C. Ruzicka
Lon Milo DuQuette, author of Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot and the recently re-released The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of Thelema, is a widely recognized occult authority, a Deputy Grand Master of the O.T.O and an all-around cool guy. Mr. DuQuette was kind enough to take time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions for Dagobert’s Revenge. The following interview was conducted via e-mail.
DR: How long did it take you to start comprehending Crowley? I've personally started reading various texts, only to stop after a few chapters, utterly confused and put off by it.
LMD: You’re not alone there! Crowley’s a very hard read, and one has to build a respectable library of his works in order have enough foundational material and cross-references to even begin the study. Until then, most of what you read is completely incomprehensible and the rest of it scares you to death.
Thirty years ago I had the advantage of the guidance of several people who knew and worked with Crowley, and who were kind enough to hold my hand through the ordeal of fire. If not for them, I’m sure that my fears and pitiful attention span would have forced me to abandon the study of Crowley altogether.
I try to provide the same service with my books - books that I wish I could have read early on in my studies - books that would allow me to first gently wrap my mind around the big concepts and practices while I gradually became more familiar with the background material and Crowley’s marvellous (yet easy to misunderstand) personality.
DR: "Love Is the Law, Love Under Will:" Can you expand on this last part? "Love" is secondary to Will or "Love" through the aid or guidance of the Will?
LMD: I’m unable to make any interpretative comments on quotes from The Book of the Law. The fact that it is forbidden for anyone to presume to interpret The Book of the Law for anyone else elevates it to a unique status among Holy Books. (And it also puts the squash on dogma and priestcrafts, eh?) However, I can and will say that your own words in the last part of your question, “Love through the aid or guidance of the Will”, is very close to Crowley’s own comments on “Love is the law, love under will.”
DR: How realistic are the conditions needed to conduct the mammoth Holy Guardian Ritual today? The conditions seem to have been difficult to achieve when Crowley wrote the Ritual, and almost impossible in the modern world.
LMD: It would certainly seem so. But is it really a bigger hassle than…say…arranging the conditions to earn a two-year Associate Arts degree at a community college…or an MBA? How many idiots do you know with MBAs?
Realistically, the prerequisites as set forth in The Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage are not at all practical – at least for those of us who are not filthy rich and unencumbered by responsibilities. Crowley’s regimen as outlined in Liber Samekh is a bit more sensible, but really…all we’re talking about here is the ability to come to the place where we fall hopelessly, insanely, and eternally in love with…..something. It doesn’t matter if we call that something “God”, or “the Goddess”, or “the Holy Guardian Angel”, or simply “the beloved.”
It is impossible for anyone to prove this, but I am relatively certain that only a tiny fraction of the people who have actually achieved this state of consciousness (and that is exactly what it is) has ever heard of Abra-Melin or Crowley or Samekh or the Holy Guardian Angel or Magick. Abra-Melin and Samekh are useful only in so far as they suggest to the magician the formulae that provide the basic procedural structure of this process. Both Abra-Melin and Samekh would work marvellously for the magician who followed the magical and meditative techniques to the letter. But so would any number of other methods that adhered to the same basic formulae.
DR: Has there been any backlash amongst the O.T.O to your "working version" of the Ritual, as presented in The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of the Rituals of Thelema? (Red Wheel/Weiser Books.)
DR: What do you think the logical progression of the Aeon of Horus might be? What happens to the “Crowned and Conquering Child?” Are we moving into the Aeon of Chaos or some kind of Cyber-Aeon?
LMD: The formula of the Aeon of Isis was that of survival and nourishment; that of the Aeon of Osiris, sacrifice and resurrection. The magical formula of the current Aeon of Horus (the Crowned and Conquering Child) is that of continual growth, where the individual is the basic unit of society, not the family or the tribe or the church or the state. The Book of the Law would seem to indicate that the Aeon to follow the Aeon of Horus would be that of Hrumachis (Maat), the goddess of Truth and Balance. How that will manifest is anybody’s guess.
DR: Do you think Crowley’s magickal system is inherently based on a reaction to Christianity? Did he ever truly erase the imprint of Christianity on his life?
LMD: A reaction to Christianity? In part, yes. Erase the imprint of Christianity? No. Have any of us?
DR: There are many rumors among the locals at Loch Ness about strange events that have taken place around Boleskine House since Crowley lived there. Do you think Crowley failed to banish certain entities there?
LMD: Oh, I hope so. I hear that things can get pretty dull in that neighbourhood. There is currently a lot of demonic activity taking place in Washington DC, however, and I don’t think Crowley spent much time there at all.
DR: In your book The Magick of Aleister Crowley, you write that Crowley once performed a ritual for his wife, Rose, in order to “show her the Sylphs.” What are these Sylphs?
LMD: Sylphs are the elemental spirits of air – sort of like Tinkerbells. You’re breathing some right now.
DR: Four magickal rules: “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent.” Some writers have suggested that this last rule was Crowley’s fatal flaw.
LMD: This hearkens back to your first question about how difficult Crowley’s writings are to understand. Yes, he wrote a lot about things that have for the last few thousand years have been secret, but he did it in such a way that the reader is still obliged to rend the veil of the mysteries for himself or herself. If he had a “fatal flaw”, (and I guess we’re all supposed to have one) it was that he overestimated the intelligence and sophistication of his readership.
DR: Did you ever have any contact with the late Anton Lavey? In Lucifer Rising by Gavin Baddeley, Kenneth Anger says “Lavey may have been a little jealous of Crowley, maybe even a lot jealous.” Do you agree?
LMD: I regret I never had the pleasure of meeting LaVey, but Kenneth Anger is an old and dear friend of the family. If that is the way he characterised Lavey then I am inclined to believe it.
DR: How quickly did your book Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot(Red Wheel/Weiser Books) take shape? Given your extensive knowledge of this subject, did it come together fairly easily or was it labor-intensive?
LMD: It took the better part of three years to write Understanding… Of course it wasn’t only thing I worked on during that time. Yes, it was labor-intensive. Until I started the project I had no idea how un-extensive my knowledge of the subject truly was, and how much more I was going to have to learn in order to do justice to the subject. It was very challenging because I am very lazy.
DR: What frustrates you about the occult/magick scene today?
LMD: You know, I’m pretty encouraged and optimistic about the occult/magick scene today. Thirty years ago the only people who seemed interested in this stuff were part of the wild and foolhardy subculture. These were some of the only folks bold enough to say “screw you” to the old spiritual norms and try something new.
Constance and I came out of that world and still consider ourselves old hippies, but the world has changed a lot since then. New Aeon consciousness has infiltrated more levels of society. Lots of people in lots of social-economic levels are now saying “screw you” to the old spiritual norms, and magick and occultism are finding their rightful place in the marketplace of spiritual ideas and practices. If there is anything that frustrates me, it is old occultists who still believe that you have to be a poor, grim social misfit to be a “real magician.”