Crowley's portrait of Lam
Thus far in my articles on the paranormal I have tried to convey an impression of pragmatism and common sense, dealing almost exclusively with the brain, its functions and -- more especially -- its dysfunctions. My aim has always been to explain various types of phenomena without explaining them away. Magic and the occult have been mentioned on a number of occasions, but only in passing, as a side issue, as it were. In the main I have confined myself to "armchair UFOlogy", leaving the wider implications (magical, spiritual, etc.) to other, possibly more capable hands. It is a fact however, that one seldom gets very far in these areas without coming across occult doctrine in one form or another, usually updated and translated into "new age" jargon. In this article I intend to examine some of the more esoteric aspects of UFOlogy, hopefully laying the groundwork for further investigation.
UFO research, even of the armchair variety, calls for a high degree of mental flexibility. One can draw up general rules to assist in analysis, but it is necessary to keep an open mind at all times, and be prepared for the exception that cuts across all previous theories. This is especially true of the contactee syndrome, which serves as a crystallization point for all manner of complexes and repressed desires. My own, albeit limited experience has led me to the realization that most contactees are basically no different from the rest of us. They are in fact perfectly ordinary human beings suffering from familiar symptoms, particularly those of boredom, alienation and sheer lack of purpose. But what of the exceptions to this rule? What, for instance of the occultist who strives by an effort of will to establish contact with trans-spatial entities? According to a recent edition of the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) journal Khabs, "the central concern of magic is communion with discarnate or extraterrestrial intelligences." It is to this end that much contemporary occultism is predicated. As long ago as 1918 Aleister Crowley conducted a series of experiments in what would today be termed channeling, or "induced contacteeism". (This is of course a simplification of what actually took place, employed here for the sake of convenience.) Since then, several occultists, notably Michael Bertiaux in the 1960s and a group of OTO initiates in the 1970s, have carried out similar magical workings. What is more their efforts in many cases have been crowned with remarkable success -- at least if the official OTO party line is to be believed. This in turn raises quite serious implications for the entire field of UFO research. In order to place these implications in their proper context, it is first of all necessary to say a few words regarding Aleister Crowley's Amalantrah Working, a series of visions and trance-communications received circa January -- March 1918 by the oddly-named Roddie Minor, who was at that time acting as Crowley's Scarlet Woman.
It is not my intention in writing this article to provide an introduction to the wider field of occultism, or to Thelemic doctrine per se. For readers who would prefer a clear and reasonably objective summary of the Amalantrah Working, Crowley's own Magical Record is invaluable. So too are Roddie Minor's own thoughts on the matter. Readers who do not have access to either of these are best advised to consult John Symond's The Great Beast, which gives a well-balanced and coherent account of what actually took place.
The facts of the matter are briefly as follows: At the outbreak of WWI, Crowley set sail from his native England aboard the Lusitania, bound for the USA. Arriving in high spirits, he took up residence in an apartment on New York's bustling West 36th street and there divided his time more or less equally between acts of sex magic and the composition of crackpot pro-German propaganda for The Fatherland. Following an expedition to Vancouver via San Francisco and New Orleans he returned to New York and moved into furnished rooms on Central Park West. Roddie Minor, a married woman living apart from her husband, joined him there circa September/ October 1917 and together they set about exploring the wilder shores of magica sexualis.
Crowley's personal record for October 1, 1917 describes Minor as "big, muscular, (and) sensual." John Symonds adds that she was "broad-shouldered and pleasant-faced." In addition to these homely attributes, she also possessed a well-developed clairvoyant faculty. Under the influence of hashish and opium she described to Crowley a series of archetypal visions involving (among others) a king, a small boy and a wizard who introduced himself as "Amalantrah"--who delivered exhortations to "find the egg." The reaction of most people would no doubt be to view these accounts as nothing more than drug-induced hallucinations having no wider significance, but Aliester Crowley was no ordinary man. According to Symonds, he "made no attempt to interpret this material in terms of unconsciousness. To him the characters and incidents of mescal visions were more real than anything reality or the ego could provide. He would not have been surprised to meet...Amalantrah strolling up Fifth Avenue. The wizard would have descended onto the plane of illusion, that is all."
At length, feeling that Amalantrah had nothing further to impart, Crowley decamped for Europe, leaving Roddie Minor to her own devices. But the story doesn't end there. It would be beyond my competence to provide a complete and faithful account of the Amalantrah Working and its aftermath. The last word on the subject will probably never be written. For the purpose of this article I need only observe that Crowley was not interested in ideas for their own sake, but in results. The details are unclear, but it seems that some stage during the proceedings he underwent a form of contactee experience involving a large-headed entity now known to occultists as Lam.
Lam, (whose name derives from the Tibetan word for "way" or "path") later became the subject of a portrait by Crowley, drawn from life and imbued with a haunting inner quality of its own. The original was first exhibited in New York in 1919 and has been reproduced several times since then, most recently in the third issue of Starfire magazine. Although lacking the crude power of Crowley's more extravagant canvases and murals, it is nevertheless a remarkable piece of work. The subject is depicted in extreme close-up and appears somehow dwarfish, despite the fact that there is no indication of scale in the overall composition. The head is large, smooth and hairless, tapering to a pointed chin. The mouth is slitlike; the eyes extend partways around the sides of the face. There is no suggestion of clothing beyond what appears to be a cloak buttoned at the neck, nor does the entity have any ears. In short, Lam resembles nothing so much as a typical UFO occupant of the "examiner" type (what Americans would call "greys".)
Crowley's portrait of Lam passed into the hands of Kenneth Grant circa 1945 following an astral working in which he and Crowley were jointly involved. Grant, who was authorized in the early '50s to work the first three grades of the OTO, is now widely perceived as Crowley's natural heir and successor (what a can of worms that statement opens.--ed). His interest in CETI (Contact with Extraterrestrial Intelligence)-type phenomena is of long-standing duration. In 1955 for instance, he announced the discovery of a trans-plutonian planet called Isis, and simultaneously established an order called the New Isis Lodge OTO for the purpose (among others) of contacting higher intelligences. A similar situation arose some 30 years later in the late 1980s, when Grant allegedly received 'strong intimations' to the effect that Crowley's portrait of Lam "is the present focus of an extraterrestrial -- and perhaps trans-plutonic-- energy which the OTO is required to communicate at this critical period..." I have no idea as to the nature of these 'intimations', besides which, writing about magic is a dubious enterprise at best, fraught with semantic difficulties. Perhaps the best option in an article as necessarily as brief as this, is to quote directly from The Lam Statement, a text circulated among OTO initiates with a view to "regularizing the mode of rapport and constructing a magical formula for establishing communication with Lam." We are told first of all that:
"It has been considered advisable by the Sovereign Sanctuary to regularize and to examine results achieved by individual members of the OTO who have established contact with the magical entity known as Lam. We are therefore founding an Inner Cult of this dikpala for the purpose of amassing precise accounts of such contacts...
The portrait of (Lam) which is reproduced in The Magical Revival may be used as the visual focus, and can serve as the Yantra of the Cult; the name Lam is the Mantra; and the Tantra is the union with the dikpala by entering the Egg of Spirit represented by the Head. Entry may be affected by projecting consciousness through the eyes..."
And elsewhere, in a section titled The Magical Procedure:
The Mode of Entering the Egg may proceed as follows. Each votary is encouraged to experiment and evolve his own method from the basic procedure:
1) Sit in silence before the portrait.
2) Invoke mentally my silent repetition the Name.
3) If response is felt to be positive...enter the Egg and merge with That which is within, and look out through the entity's eyes on what appears now to the votary an alien world.
4) Seal the Egg, i.e., close the eyes of Lam and await developments.
The Remainder of The Lam Statement deals with the practicalities of invocation and banishing in a ritual context. Some parts of the text are esoteric, having to do with the Cabala and other such difficult matters (my knowledge of occultism is largely theoretical; I have very little practical experience); others are remarkably straightforward. It is difficult to assess whether the claims made for "LAMeditation " have any basis in fact. Certain objections inevitably remain open. Nevertheless, we should be cautious about assuming that it is all pure imagination. There is a definite residue of data here that cannot be dismissed out of hand. The real question now facing us is simply: what exactly happens at times like this? What is the basis of these extraordinary accounts? Do we, in order to explain them, need to invoke the concept of 'trans-plutonian entities', or are we dealing instead with archetypes dredged up from the collective unconscious? There is pervasive evidence to support both alternatives. All it takes is a willingness to look at the facts.
Perhaps the most important point arising from The Lam Statement is simply that contactee type experiences can be induced at will. There are in fact a number of important parallels between "LAMeditation" and the broader issue of "contacteeism" in general. Consider: John Keel once remarked that "in most contactee events the percipient is alone...when the UFO contact occurs." This observation might equally apply to the abductee syndrome. Once again the vast majority of all cases are uncorroborated by hard evidence. Independent witness testimony is so rare as to be virtually unknown. In short, whatever else it may be, "alien contact" ( I am loth to use the phrase without quotes) is essentially a solitary experience. And so too is LAMeditation. The Lam Statement makes this point in no uncertain terms, warning that group working is considered inadvisable. "Each votary should work in isolation," it stresses, "or only with his or her magical partner...1X° Working is held to be extremely dangerous (sic emphasis) in this area, even if both partners are officially 1X°." The precise nature of this danger is not specified, but we are left in no doubt as to its reality.
Nor do the similarities (with the contactee experience) end there. In common with most forms of magical procedure, rapport with Lam requires stern self-discipline and dedication to a higher purpose. Referring back to The Lam Statement we find that "adumbrations of identity with Lam may be experienced as a strong sense of the unreality or unfamiliarity of the "objective" universe. There is a definite parallel here with the curious sense of dissociation experienced by very many witnesses. In recent years there has been an increasing acceptance that this sort of thing is not pure delusion. Jenny Randles for instance, refers to it as the "Oz Effect". Writing in The Pennine UFO Mystery she describes a typical case in which the witnesses "said that they were not afraid: indeed they were very strangely calm and subdued...isolated in time and space as if removed from the real world and melded with the UFO above them; only they and it existed..." Having personally experienced this odd sensation on two separate occasions I am reluctant to dismiss it merely as the subjective reaction of a highly-strung temperament. On the other hand, however I am equally reluctant to interpret it as some form of rapport with extraterrestrial entities. I suspect that most investigators would share my reluctance. (There is a tendency nowadays, particularly among UFO researchers here in the U.K., to dismiss the ETH (Extraterrestrial Hypothesis) as little more than a form of American cultural imperialism, rather on par with Coca Cola, McDonald's, and Ninja Turtles.) It is far more likely that we are dealing here with some form of psychic response, the precise nature of which is at present a mystery.
In magical terms it is possible to identify Lam with the Dwarf Self, the Silent Self, Harpocrates, Hadit, and perhaps most significantly, the Babe In The Egg. Here I quote from Michael Staley's forward to The Lam Statement in Starfire vol. 1 no. 3: "The Amalantrah is in many ways a continuation of the Abuldiz Working of several years previous. In both of these Workings the symbolism of the egg featured prominently. One of the earlier versions of the Amalantrah Working ended with the sentence, 'It's all in the egg.' During the final surviving version of this Working, in reference to a question about the egg, Crowley was told: 'Thou art to go this way.'"
There is a certain danger in constructing theories based on intuitive or "inspired" source material. At this point I may be allowing my knowledge of UFOlogy to influence my interpretation of the Lam text. (Inevitably some of my assertions may seem to cross the line into pure fantasy; I can only ask the reader to bear with me.) I can't help seeing in Roddie Minor's channeled references to "the egg" a parallel with various issues relating to UFO research in general.
Egg-shaped UFOs are of course by no means uncommon. There are dozens of examples on file. The famous Soccoro, New Mexico case (April 24, 1964) springs readily to mind. So too do the Salem, Massachusetts (July 16, 1952), Saigon, Vietnam (April 17, 1967), Levelland, Texas (November 3, 1967), and White Sands, New Mexico (also November 3, 1967) sightings. Space and brevity preclude going into these cases at length. Besides which, it would be to little purpose -- a tenuous connection at best. Far more significant are those cases where the witness seemingly enters what psychologists would term an "altered state of consciousness". Testimonies abound in this respect. For instance: "The room is whitish," abductee Stephen Kilburn recalled under hypnosis in 1978; "it's curved on the inside...I don't think there are any angles in the room. Everything is kind of milky or misty or something. It doesn't shine, but everything has that metallic glow to it." Accounts like this are by no means uncommon, and it is unlikely that all are pure fabrication. But what is the alternative? We seem to be dealing here with something very similar to the process of LAMeditation which, it will be recalled, entails "entering the egg and merging with that which is within." This recognition is important, for it leads us once again to the suspicion that the abduction syndrome may have something in common with what is traditionally called "magic".
Before we allow ourselves to be convinced however, it is worth taking into account John Rimmer's observation that the witness in this case, "one of a number investigated by Budd Hopkins, had no conscious memory of an abduction before the investigation." The phrase I have underlined is important, not least because the Lam procedure also involves a form of hypnosis, albeit self-administered and -regulated. Rimmer adds that "the UFO abduction as a distinct phenomenon exists as a result of the process of hypnotic regression." And again: "...to a very great extent the evidence for alien abductions stands or falls on the reliability of memories recalled through regression, and the techniques of hypnosis themselves." (Budd Hopkins and others do report that many abduction events are recalled without the aid of hypnosis--but bear with Mr. Blake here--ed.)
These comments obviously go to the very heart of the matter. In real terms most accounts gained under hypnosis are so vague and imprecise as to be virtually worthless. The sensible reaction to them must inevitably be that they contain a certain amount of "confabulated" material, expressing the repressed desires of the unconscious mind. Hilary Evans seems to be referring to something of this sort in Visions * Apparitions * Alien Visitors when he asks, "Are we to suppose that, subconsciously, all the witnesses...were unconsciously seeking their encounter? And in that case do we have to suppose that every UFO percipient is also responding to some subconscious motivation?" I suspect so -- at least as a broad percept. I suspect furthermore, just as the vampires of eighteenth century Hungary were unable to cross a threshold uninvited, so the UFO entities of contemporary folklore are bound by a similar constraint. Having given the matter careful consideration, I am forced reluctantly to conclude that they too are unable to cross the threshold of human experience without first being "invited" in some way.
In writing this article I have experienced none of the satisfaction from seeing a range of facts fall neatly into place. At the end of it all I am left feeling just as bewildered as ever. In order to assess The Lam Statement fully, it is necessary to consider the possibility that there may indeed be such a thing as genuine alien contact. Is it conceivable that some students of Thelema have indeed established contact with non-human entities? I believe that it is. I am not however, convinced that these entities are necessarily "trans-plutonian". There is a certain amount of evidence (internal consistency, cross-correspondences) to support such a contention, but the matter by its very nature cannot be proved scientifically. No matter. More than anything else, The Lam Statement testifies to the power of the unconscious mind. Translated out of occult terminology into the language of conventional psychology, we can see that it describes a process of self-exploration leading to a greater realization of inner potential. Perhaps this is the best way to view it.