If the book can be printed without illustrations it need not
cost more than [L]300.
If Lady Harris likes, she can give it away with the cards, I do
not want any money out of it: and she can say she wrote it, I don't
But I will not allow the cards to be issued so that they can be
used only for gambling or fortune-telling.
The new catalogue, full of grotesque blunders which discredit
the scholarship of the Work, must be withdrawn.
[Actually written by Crowley, to himself; the "Society" is
fictitious as such.]
An open letter to Alestair Crowley
SOCIETY OF HIDDEN MASTERS
For many years we have watched your career with benevolent
interest; wile we have been unable to approve many of your
activities in particular your policy of revealing secret knowledge
which we consider dangerous if in the possession of untrained and
uninitiated people. We have always respected your passionate
integrity, your fanatical (and in our opinion, indiscreet) love of
I our view, this mistaken policy has been responsible for many
of your own personal mishaps. For this reason we re surprised that
you should acquiesce, even by silence, in so blatant and impudent a
hoax as the exhibition of Tarot Cards at the Royal Society of
Painters in Water Colours, 26/7 Conduit Street, W.1. beginning 4th
We hereby challenge you to deny any of the statements here
1. During the winter of 1898/9 you were entrusted by the Order of
A..A.. with the Secret Lecture on the Tarot, giving the initiated
2. You published these attributions at the command of the Secret
Chiefs of the order in a Book of Reference numbered 777 in 1909.
3. You issued the Official Lecture of the Order on the Tarot, in the
Equinox Vol. I Nos VII and VIII, March and September 1912.
4. You have made the Tarot your continual study and used it daily,
since the Winter of 1898/9.
5. You have made the Tarot the skeleton or schema of all your
writings on mystical and magical subjects. We would instance
particularly "Ambrosia", "Magi Hortus Rosarum" (The Wake-World),
"The Vision and the Voice", "Theory and Practice of Magick".
6. You have been recognized everywhere in Europe and America (even,
to a less extent, in India) as the supreme Authority on the Tarot;
that is, by serious students of the subject.
7. You have contemplated the construction and publication of a
properly designed and executed pack, based on the Equinox
information ever since the issue of the grotesque and falsified
parody which appeared under the auspices of the later A.E. Waite.
6. In a series of conversations in 1937 beginning at Mr. Clifford
Bax' chambers in Albany St., W.1., you suggested to Lady Harris that
she might be able to carry out this work. Although she very rightly
protested that her knowledge of the subject hardly extended beyond
the name, you, with the imbecile optimism characteristic of you,
persuaded her that the descriptions of the cards given in the
Equinox would be sufficient guide, and persuaded her to make the
9. It became obvious almost at once that the Equinox designs were
artistically impracticable. Lady Harris very properly asked you to
take the whole subject in hand ab ovo esque ad umbilicum. You
thereupon agreed to devote your whole knowledge to the work of
designing an entirely original pack of cards, incorporating the
results of your 39 years of constant study of the subject with your
profound--if at times unacceptably unorthodox--knowledge of
comparative religion, mathematical physics, philosophy and Magick.
Also nthat you should compose a Treatise explaining the subject in
full. It appears from a notice in the Exhibition that there is a
proposal to publish the cards as a pack without this book. To do so
would limit their use to fortune-telling, a form of fraud against
which you have constantly set your face your whole life long. We
refuse to believe that you have now consented to prostitute the
Sacred Wisdom of Thoth to this base and dishonest purpose and we
insist upon this point being made clear.
10. On May 11, 1938, Lady Harris became officially your disciple,
and was permitted to affiliate to the other Order of which you are
Head, the O.T.O.
11. You made an agreement with Lady Harris by which you were to have
a 66 2/3% interest in the work.
12. For the next four years approximately, Lady Harris prepared
water-colours of the cards. She did this from your rough sketches
and descriptions under your continual direction, subject to your
constant and repeated corrections. In some cases you made her redraw
and re-paint a card which you found unsatisfactory as many as five
or six times. She has, when left to herself, no sense of dignify or
congruity; one of us has seen some attempts which you rejected, for
instance, her ideal figure for "The Fool", the Holy Ghost, was Harpo
Marx. Did you really pass this and Trump I? She gave the Sphinx in
Trump X a French cabahy sabre! And her first conception of "The Lord
of the Winds and the Breezes; the King of the Spirits of the Air",
was a clown in plate armour, waving rapier and dagger, sprawling
over a demented nag, diving through a paper screen in a circus!
13. You left Lady Harris a comparatively free hand in respect of
insignificant details; but at no time did she contribute a single
idea of any kind to any card, and she is in fact almost as ignorant
of the Tarot and its true meaning and use as when she began. We
cannow however, blame you for this.
14. You have followed with as much fidelity as was possible the
traditional designs of the mediaeval packs; but you have notably
enriched and revivified some of them, especially the Trumps, with
your scholarship, as observed above in paragraph 9.
15. In every trump you have not only incorporated symbols
illustrating the doctrines of Payne Knight, Hargrave Jennings,
Arthur Eddington, J.G. Frazer, Bertrand Russell, J.W.N. Sullivan,
Eliphaz Levi and how many others! --but introduced very many ideas
purely personal to yourself and based on your own personal magical
experience--see "The Vision and the Voice", "The Paris Working" etc.
16. In certain cases, in order to make sure that your doctrine of
the New Aeon is clearly manifest as the spiritual-magical basis of
the whole work, you have given new names to the cards. Notably
Trumps XI, XIV, and numerous "small" cards. You have made the final
correction to the attributions--Trumps IV and XVII, according to the
Book fo the Law given to you in Cairo April 8, 9, and 10 1904. You
have used "The Stele of Revealing" (see "The Book of the Law" Chap.
I 49, III 19) to replace "The Last Judgment" (Trump XX) to affirm
the supersession of the Aeon of Osiris the Dying God by that of
Horus the Crowned and Conquering Child. The entire composition is
soaked in and reeks of your own private and personal point of view
with regard to Magick.
17. You undertook this Work with two main motives:--
1. That it should serve as a Magical Atlas of and Guide to the
Universe, for this "New Aeon of Horus", that is, for the next
2. That its undeniable beauty and majesty should be an
intelligible vindication of the whole of your life's work.
You rightly foresaw that sooner or later it would be clear
that you are the sole responsible author of the Work and Lady
Harris only your more or less docile and intelligent
18. You and Lady Harris were at first agreed that the Work should be
put forth anonymously. She wrote to a friend "I intend to remain
anonymous when the cards are shown". You had, of course, pointed out
that any student of the subject would recognise your authorship at a
19. Too well aware that in the past your work has been stolen and
exploited by unscrupulous rascals and also that doctrinal argument
of a lightly technical kind may all too frequently prove rather hard
for a jury, you took the precaution of introducing certain symbols
into the designs of susch a character that the most stupid would be
compelled to acknowledge your authorship of the Work.
Your conduct is abominable and inexcusable to allow Lady Harris
to issue a catalogue crammed with the grossest errors of fact,
blunders of scholarsip, irrelevancies and absurdities; to allow her
to make herself the laughing-stock of London by larying claim to the
authorship of pictures of which all artists know her to be utterly
incapable, her work having been that of a wealthy amateur persistent
enough to acquire a good technique but with no personality, no
"message" groping in Bloomsbury forgs for the parasitic adulation of
a gaggle of sycophants.
We can understand your passionate wish to get these cards
exhibited, even by a subterfuge, but you had no right to sacrifice
Lady Harris and you have no right to lend yourself, even by silence
to the perpetration of a hoax transparent and nausient as it must
naturally be, which affects the honour of the Fraternity of Art and
We repeat that we are surprised; for whatever your faults, you
have always been honourable and truthful with more than ancient
Roman rigour. You must speak now.
for the Society of Hidden Masters.
Sic vos non vobis.
[1st page of letter missing--this is Crowley's "reply" to the letter
from the Society of Hidden Masters.]
Their estimate in paragraph 6 is exaggerated: it depends on the
definition of "serious students."
Nor would it be useful to deny them, as in every case their
truth is guaranteed by evidence independent of my asseveration,
internal evidence of documents easily accessible.
"I do however most strenuously deny participation in the hoax.
This was perpetrated by Lady Harris without my knowledge or consent;
I only learnt of the exhibitions, in the first case several days
after the opening, from information supplied by loyal friends.
This letter is to authorize and to request you to publicize its
substance, either by a letter addressed to the Times and other
newspapers, or as you in your best judgment may see fit.