There has been a lot of speculation and general confusion/misinformation about Aleister Crowley and one of his 1919 drawings titled “Lam.” The general consensus says that Lam represents a “Grey” alien, contacted by Aleister Crowley during a magickal operation titled The Amalantrah Working. Many people have also related Lam and the drawing to Aiwass, which is the name Crowley ascribed to a being who dictated The Book of the Law in a contactee like experience. Crowley also eventually came to view Aiwass as his own Holy Guardian Angel.
AIWASS- An alleged superhuman intelligence contacted by Aleister Crowley in 1904, Aiwass dictated to Crowley a work called “Liber AL,” or “Book of the Law,” which prophesied wars and revolutions leading to the collapse of Christian civilizations and the dawn of the Aeon of Horus. Liber AL also proclaims the Law of Thelema, usually summed up in three mantra-like aphorisms: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law,” “Love is the law, love under will,” and “Every man and every woman is a star.”
According to former Crowley student Dr. Isreal Regardie, a Reichian psychotherapist and occultist, Aiwass represented the deepest, most abysmal part of Crowley’s own mind, which is common to all life, mammal, insect, and all, deeper than either Freudian or Jungian unconscious. According to another Crowley student, Kenneth Grant, Aiwass is an extraterrestrial from Sirius.
-Robert Anton Wilson’s book, Everything is Under Control
However, the idea that Crowley believed Aiwass and Lam to be the same entity, or that either were extraterrestrials from Sirius, is only the speculation of Kenneth Grant and those who have based their research on source material written by Grant. Additionally, very little can be said about the inspiration for the Lam portrait or what Aleister Crowley thought about it.
To begin with, let’s examine what exactly Crowley wrote about Aiwass and his perceptions of the being’s character and physical appearance. The below excerpt from The Equinox of the Gods describes an encounter with Aiwass:
I went into the “temple” a minute early, so as to shut the door and sit down on the stroke of Noon.
On my table were my pen–a Swan Fountain–and supplies of Quarto typewriting paper, 8″ x I0″.
I never looked round in the room at any time.
The Voice of Aiwass came apparently from over my left shoulder, from the furthest corner of the room.
The voice was of deep timbre, musical and expressive, its tones solemn, voluptuous, tender, fierce or aught else as suited the moods of the message. Not bass –perhaps a rich tenor or baritone.
The English was free of either native or foreign accent, perfectly pure of local or caste mannerisms, thus startling and even uncanny at first hearing.
I had a strong impression that the speaker was actually in the corner where he seemed to be, in a body of “fine matter,” transparent as a veil of gauze, or a cloud of incense-smoke. He seemed to be a tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw. The dress was not Arab; it suggested Assyria or Persia, but very vaguely. I took little note of it, for to me at that time Aiwass and an “angel” such as I had often seen in visions, a being purely astral.
I now incline to believe that Aiwass is not only the God or Demon or Devil once held holy in Sumer, and mine own Guradian Angel, but also a man as I am, insofar as He uses a human body to make His magical link with Mankind, whom He loves, and that He is thus and Ipsissimus, the Head of the A∴A∴ Even I can do, in a much feebler way, this Work of being a God and a Beast, &c., &c., all at the same time, with equal fullness of life.
Reading the above and comparing the drawing of Lam should reveal some key insight. Crowley writes of Aiwass:
“He seemed to be a tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king… The dress was not Arab; it suggested Assyria or Persia, but very vaguely.”
At least to the present author, this description of a kingly, tall, dark man in his thirties does not fit the Lam drawing. More importantly in relation to the subject of this post, the description does not match up at all with that of a “grey alien,” which many people relate to Lam.
The next important piece of information to take from Crowley’s depiction of Aiwass is that he never actually saw Aiwass at all. He only heard the voice of Aiwass from over his left shoulder, and from the furthest corner of the room. Not once did he actually look at Aiwass. His physical descriptions are only impressions.
So here we have a character description based only on non-visual impressions, and which doesn’t seem to correspond with the pictured Lam or grey aliens at all. This is the only known written description of Aiwass by Aleister Crowley.
Crowley himself never wrote much of anything at all about Lam, where the figure came from, or his ideas/thoughts about the subject in the drawing. What he did write was limited to a short, two sentence commentary in The Voice Of The Silence, which will be discussed later in this article. Whether or not the drawing actually represented an entity encountered by Crowley cannot even be determined. All that can be factually said is that it was a work of art by Crowley, featured at his Dead Souls exhibition in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1919.
There are a few stories of Crowley commenting on the drawing. Supposedly an acquaintance who found the drawing repulsive was told by Crowley that it was a drawing of his “guru.”
“The point is that Crowley says nothing about Lam in his published writing; whether or not there is anything unpublished, I don’t know. Interestingly, I have come across an account by an American visitor to Crowley’s flat in Jermyn Street, London, in 1941 or thereabouts, who says that the portrait [he doesn't say who it is, but his description of it - he found it repulsive - leaves no doubt] was on Crowley’s wall. When the visitor asked who or what it was, Crowley said that it was a portrait of his guru.”
-Michael Staley, June 2001
Now, there is some question as to which drawing is actually being referenced in this story since Crowley also created self portraits that could have easily been the work in question. If this apocryphal tale actually happened, its also important to consider the nature in which this conversation took place- he said this to someone who was offended by the ugliness of the drawing, and Crowley loved to play the joker. This would take on another meaning if the drawing discussed was actually one of his self portraits. Additionally, it cannot be ruled out that the Lam drawing is itself simply another of these odd self portraits by Crowley.
The Lam/Aiwass/ET theory is ultimately sourced to Kenneth Grant, who was also the first to draw connections between Crowley & Sirius in 1973 (see his book, Aleister Crowley & the Hidden God, p. 59-60). Kenneth Grant’s speculations reached a wider audience through several of Robert Anton Wilson’s books, such as Cosmic Trigger, and this is probably where a lot of the current theories have grown from.
Grant founded various organizations within his own break-away branch of the OTO, which were largely focused on contact with non-human entities. It is important to note that Grant was expelled from the “official” OTO for his work in this area. Though it must also be noted that the validity of any modern OTO organization is an issue of debate in itself.
Grant declared himself as the true successor to Crowley as Outer Head of the Ordo Templi Orientis, with no evidence to back his claim. Later a document supposedly written by Crowley and declaring Grant as O.H.O. surfaced, creating much debate and was eventually proven to be a fake. Much of the same kind of controversy surrounds the current official OTO.
Within Grant’s Typhonian Order, The Cult of Lam was created around a method designed to contact Lam, who Kenneth Grant believed to be both Aiwass and an extraterrestrial from Sirius. This method involves using the Lam portrait, or a mental visualization of Lam, as an object of focus in meditation. Oversimplified, one makes use of the mantra “Lam” and meditates on the eyes, eventually being drawn into them. In this way one enters into the egg shaped head and is then able to look out through those same eyes, and “view the world from yonder.”
The above writing by Kenneth Grant is the original source for all the information cited in current theories about Lam/Aiwass/alien contact. Many statements about the nature of Lam are made as fact in this writing. However, these statements are merely interpretations made by Grant while providing no sources to back them up.
Aleister Crowley According To Kenneth Grant
The vastly complex mythology and systems of practice developed by Grant may have been based largely around the work of Crowley, however they are the interpretations and the creations of Grant himself.
While much is made about the weight of Crowley and Grant’s relationship, the reality is that Grant acted as secretary, nurse and student of Crowley from December 1944 to June 1945, a period of less than 1 year. Grant was 20 years old at the time and had been an admirer of Crowley’s written work since the age 14. Crowley was barely surviving at this point and enduring one of the roughest times in his life, and made use of anyone willing to help him get by.
Grant was offered the Lam drawing while still working for Crowley, if he could correctly guess the title in 3 guesses/3 days. The following excerpts are taken from “Remembering Aleister Crowley, pg46-47.”
Crowley wrote to Grant:
“The drawing which you covet.
This drawing has a title. I do not mean an apt fancy, but a description accurate & recognizable by any person familiar with the subject, like “The Tower Bridge by Moonlight” or “Portrait of Mr. Ernest Bevin” or “Barnham Beeches”. You are allowed 3 days and 3 guesses. If correct, the drawing is yours; if not; the test can be repeated at the Autumn Equinox.”
Grant then sent his response, to which Crowley chidingly replied:
“I thought I had explained carefully that I wanted an answer, not a sermon! If I point to a tea-pot, and ask “What is that?” You don’t say “The refreshing beverage which we owe to the Chinese calms the mind, and induces a state of feeling which is conducive to carrying on one’s work” etc., etc. This is a terrible defect in your outlook on life; you cannot be content with the simplicity of reality and fact; you have to go off into a pipe-dream. Yet you wouldn’t do this with the other pictures on the walls; you would say rightly “a girl’s head” or”Boy from Martinique” or “Snow-peak beyond foothills” & so on, as the case may be. Idealism is the way to Falsehood. 666.”
There other instances of Crowley expressing frustration with Grant’s work, and likewise Grant admitting his inability to keep up:
“I was beginning to realize that Crowley’s demands were unending. As Austin Spare frequently observed: ‘Enough is too much!” – Kenneth Grant, Remembering Aleister Crowley, pg41
A couple months later Crowley suffered severe problems with asthma and when Grant came to his aid, Crowley, despite his dissatisfaction with Grant’s answers to the challenge, gave him the Lam drawing as a token of gratitude. Grant writes in the above referenced Lam Statement that he received the drawing from Crowley “following an astral working in which they were both involved.” What actually happened was Grant quickly obtained heroin for Crowley from his doctor to help alleviate the attack. Crowley’s diary entry reads:
Aussik(Grant) helped a whole lot; gave him ‘The Lama’
This reference to “The Lama” combined with the only other use of the Lam drawing by Crowley are the last clues to its meaning. The drawing was featured in Liber LXXI, with a short commentary below the picture.
While interesting, this short commentary provides little to support Grant’s claims.
Here, the drawing appears to be titled, “THE WAY,” whereas in the previous exhibition the title was “LAM.” In the above diary entry, Crowley refers to it as “The Lama.” This suggests that the work’s title was interchangeable and also that the figure portrayed is “The Lama.”
“This drawing has a title. I do not mean an apt fancy, but a description accurate & recognizable by any person familiar with the subject”
This quote from Crowley indicates that any descriptive phrase will do as the title, so long as it sufficiently demonstrates understanding of the drawing’s subject.
If this figure is “The Lama,” then it is simply a “Treader of the Path.” This lends additional credence to the possibility of the Lam drawing being simply another form of self portrait.
Shortly after receiving the Lam drawing, Grant’s father urged him to come home to pursue a more practical career, and Kenneth Grant’s working relationship with Aleister Crowley came to an end.
Get To The Point ALready
The main intention of this post is to show how current theories about Aleister Crowley and alien contact have come into being, by presenting an analysis of the source material these theories are based on. I feel all of this information must be taken into account when considering the validity of these claims. It seems that universally, whenever I hear a discussion or read about these topics, it is taken for granted that Crowley believed and wrote these things himself. While I am not a Crowleyite who believes the man infallible, it makes a world of difference whether Crowley himself believed he was in contact with an alien race from Sirius, or if that was just the belief of one of his many short-lived and disappointing students.
Crowley’s own A.A. system of mystical training, which Grant later claimed a true understanding of, required a minimum period of 1 year in demanding study and practice before even being given an entrance exam to become a member.
You would learn a lot & fit yourself for an official position in the Order in say 10 or 15 years’ time. -Crowley in letter to “Mr. Grant”, Dec. 30, 1944
One must wonder why Crowley would impart such secret knowledge which he apparently never wrote of, even in his private diaries, or spoke to anyone else about, to a student who can’t commit to the work and which lasted for less than 1 year.
When considering Grant’s work after Crowley’s death, its interesting that he begins incorporating elements from works of pure fiction, such as the lore from the horror writings of HP Lovecraft, believing that Lovecraft had somehow unknowingly channelled information about real spiritual entities and realms. Grant identified Lovecraft’s “Old Ones” with the traditional “Secret Chiefs,” although the fictional “Old Ones” served the role of inter-dimensional monsters seeking to destroy humanity in HP Lovecraft’s stories, whereas the “Secret Chiefs” are known in mystical traditions to be those enlightened beings serving and aiding the advancement of mankind. This mixing of horror fantasy with ritual work and magickal understanding was exactly the kind of thing Crowley abhorred and frequently faced troubles with. For example, as with Jack Parsons:
He gets a kick from some magazine trash, or an ‘occult’
novel (if only he knew how they were concocted!) and dashes off in
wild pursuit. -Aleister Crowley in letter to Jane Wolfe, December 1943
The Amalantrah Working supposedly resulted in Crowley’s opening of an inter-dimensional portal and his first contact with Lam. Crowley’s record of The Amalantrah Working makes no mention of Lam, or anything matching the character of the drawing, or contact with aliens (grey or otherwise.) Crowley does record interactions with the “Wizard Amalantrah,” however the Wizard is described as that typical image of a robed, bearded old man:
He was an old man, with gray beard, dressed in a long black gown. He was infinitely wise.
Grant writes in the Lam Statement foreword that:
It is certain, however, that the drawing arose from the Amalantrah Working
However Crowley makes no mention in any of his written works, journals or letters of any incidents relating Lam or the drawing to the Amalantrah Working. There is nothing for this claim to stand on, other than Grant stating that it is “certain,” without providing any reason as to why it is certain.
Ultimately the point is that any ideas about Aleister Crowley contacting an alien named Lam are only based in the theories of Kenneth Grant, who is known for creatively supplementing Crowley’s work with modern fictional lore, and presenting it as a direct continuation of what Crowley himself believed. Grant claimed authority in his work in relation to Crowley’s legacy, despite the fact that none of it was ever sanctioned by Crowley. In fact, Grant’s obsession with fantasy was viewed by Crowley as one of his biggest weaknesses. All of Grant’s writings came about only after Crowley’s death, leaving no way of determining the validity of Grant’s claims.
My Own Speculation
As mentioned above, I believe there is a decent chance this Lam drawing is one of several Crowley self portraits. As shown in the previous examples, Crowley did portray himself as having an enlarged head in some of these portraits. But why would Crowley depict himself this way?
The Tree of Life is a tool used to categorize and organize various mystical concepts, and is central to the teachings of Aleister Crowley and the Qabalah. At its most simple level, it is composed of ten spheres, or emanations, called sephiroth (sing. “sephira”) which are connected by twenty two paths.
The Tree of Life in the Human Body:
This shows the ten spheres or sephiroth as they are called arranged in a geometrical pattern to form three columns or pillars. To each one of these spheres is ascribed a different characteristic of the self. That is, the diagram expresses the integral nature of man according to ten quite distinct functions. It is the unity of these ten factors which together comprise what we choose to call man.
- Israel Regardie, The Middle Pillar, pg. 26
Kether, the first Sephirah, is a center of light, and in the Qabalistic Cross, it is attributed to a center posited slightly above the crown of the head. It refers to that higher genius or it which, not yet fully incarnated within, broods above, a silent watcher. It is for each of us the source of inspiration and freedom and enlightenment. It is life itself.
- Israel Regardie, The Middle Pillar, pg. 72
Kether on The Tree of Life corresponds to one’s Holy Guardian Angel, the ultimate and central concept behind all of Aleister Crowley’s mystical systems of training. Crowley explicitly states the goal of all magickal work is the integration with one’s Holy Guardian Angel, or higher/true self. In a sense, one cannot bring down their Holy Guardian Angel for integration on their normal human level. Rather, one must expand their consciousness in order to converse with the HGA on its own level. While considering the meaning of Lam/Lama as “The Way” and “He who Goeth,” combined with Crowley’s belief that union with the HGA is “The Way,” one possible understanding of this image emerges.
Finally, “the way” is a direct translation of the Chinese term, “Tao,” which also corresponds to Kether/Yechidah.
Since the translation of Eastern texts has been made available, many psychologists have pounced on several Chinese terms for inclusion within the technical nomenclature of their own systems. One such term selected by Jung to have reference to a concept such as explained above in connection with the Yechidah(Kether), is Tao. This term, so ambiguous to the Western mind accustomed to precision and accurate definition, has been variously translated as God, or a goal, or heaven. The sinologue Wilhelm prefers the word “meaning” and Jung employed it as having a closer association with the conception which he wished to explain, for it is precisely this factor in consciousness which, eventually, provides a meaning for life and for man. And in the diagram which is provided in The Secret of the Golden Flower to which Jung wrote an erudite and profound European commentary the placing of the psychic factor Tao is similar
to the position of Yechidah(Kether) upon the Qabalistic Tree of Life
-Regardie, The Middle Pillar, pg29