Original texts in English

KENNETH GRANT OBITUARY

Kenneth Grant, whose death on 15th January 2011 aged 86 was recently announced, was one of the most influential occultists of the 20th century. Born at Ilford, Essex, in 1924, he developed an intense interest in the occult from an early age. He remarked somewhere in his writings that Eastern mysticism was his first love, an indication not only of how well read he was, but more importantly perhaps his heightened sense of the imminent. After immersing himself in the works of Aleister Crowley, in 1944 he sought out and started corresponding with him, visiting Crowley several times before subsequently living with him as his unpaid secretary for a few weeks in 1945, in exchange for tuition in Magick.  Many years later, Grant wrote a memoir of this period of his life, Remembering Aleister Crowley. Although it is clear from this memoir that the two men came into conflict on occasion, it is also clear from remarks in his diaries and elsewhere that Crowley had a high estimation of Grant, seeing in him the potential to become a future leader of the O.T.O.
After Crowley’s death in December 1947, Kenneth and Steffi Grant were members of the small circle who endeavoured to keep the memory of Crowley and his work alive. Crowley had appointed Karl Germer – then living in the USA – as his successor, and his Will stipulated that his papers be sent to Germer. Concerned that there should be copies of the most important documents in the event that anything happened to them in transit, Grant and Yorke set about making typed copies of those they considered of particular importance. It is as well that they did, since Germer’s collection of papers was stolen from his widow Sascha in 1967 by the Solar Lodge and subsequently destroyed in a fire. The typed copies made by Grant, Yorke and others formed the basis of the archive which Yorke passed to the Warburg Institute of the University of London, and which continues to be accessible to researchers.
Soon after Crowley’s death, Grant met a IXth Degree member of the O.T.O., David Curwen, who had entered the Order in the last year or so of Crowley’s life, and who had links to a Tantric group in India. He had obtained from his teacher on the subcontinent a typed Commentary on the Anandalahari from the perspective of a practitioner in the Vama Marg stream of Kaula Tantra. This Comment included in passing some critical remarks about aspects of Crowley’s work, remarks which Crowley refuted when shown the document by Curwen. Crowley’s relationship with Curwen has been documented in a compilation of what survives of their mutual correspondence; this was recently published as Brother Curwen, Brother Crowley, edited by Henrik Bogdan. Grant was very interested in the Commentary which he considered of great significance, and made references it at several points in his subsequent published work. Curwen played a part in the early stages of development of what would become New Isis Lodge, with some meetings at the basement of his furrier’s shop in Melcombe Street, central London. However, he had departed long before the formal establishment of the Lodge in 1955.
In 1951, Grant received a charter from Germer to establish a ‘camp’ of the O.T.O. in London. After several incarnations, this matured as New Isis Lodge, launched formally in 1955 with a document entitled ‘The Manifesto of New Isis Lodge’ which heralded the detection of changes in the magical current. Although Germer had at one time regarded Grant as a future leader of the O.T.O. (see in this connection the extracts from his letters to Grant published in the article ‘It’s an Ill Wind That Bloweth’ in Starfire Volume I No 5 , London, 1994), he was unhappy with anyone who deviated from his line that Crowley had discovered all there was to know, and that the only thing left to do was to preserve and to promote Crowley’s work. He was also not happy that Grant declined to collect money from the members of his Lodge. He was also enraged to learn that Grant had connections with Eugen Grosche, an old adversary of Germer’s from Germany in the 1920s. He demanded that Grant retract his Manifesto; and, when Grant refused, he issued a Notice of Expulsion. Grant simply ignored the expulsion and continued with New Isis Lodge as a dependent lodge of the O.T.O., confident that his magical work had enabled him to make direct connection with the magical current behind the O.T.O., thus rendering Germer’s expulsion irrelevant. This confidence remained and was indeed strengthened throughout the succeeding years as his magical and mystical work developed.
The New Isis Lodge had a programme of work which started in 1955 and was completed in 1962, although it continued to operate until the middle 1960s. Developing some interesting and innovative magical techniques, an account of some of their workings is given in Hecate’s Fountain, written in the early 1980s but not published until ten years later. Grant’s experiences in New Isis Lodge were the foundation for his subsequent work, more apparent perhaps in the later volumes of the Trilogies with the publication of two of the transmissions received during the course of Lodge Workings. One was the exquisite and delicate Wisdom of S’lba which was incorporated into the seventh Trilogies volume, Outer Gateways, published in 1994. The other was The Book of the Spider, around which Grant wove his final Trilogies volume, The Ninth Arch (2002).
One of the most important influences on the work of Kenneth Grant was Spare. In 1948 he and his wife Steffi met the occult artist and writer. They remained friends until Spare's death in 1956, supporting him with some of the essentials of life as well as materials for his artwork, and this contact triggered a renaissance in Spare's work. Grant had for some time taken a keen interest in Spare's magic and mysticism as well as his art, and in particular the systems of sigils which Spare had presented in The Book of Pleasure, published in 1913. Notable exceptions such as the 1929 drawing ‘Theurgy’ notwithstanding, sigils were largely absent from Spare’s work after the First World War, and he confessed to Grant that over the years he had largely forgotten the principles which underlay the systems. Stimulated by Grant’s interest and enthusiasm, Spare applied himself to recovering those principles, and sigils resurged into many of his drawings and paintings of the late 1940s and the 1950s. The output of the last few years of his life was something of a renaissance for Spare, a late flowering.
This renaissance included written work, which Grant typed for him, in the process supplying criticism and commentary, and pressing for elucidation where it seemed beneficial. Much of this late work was subsequently published by the Grants in Zos Speaks!, together with letters and diary extracts documenting their time with Spare, as well as reproductions of Spare's artwork. On his death, Spare bequeathed to Kenneth his manuscripts, typescripts, and books. Tireless in promoting Spare’s work over the subsequent years, in 1975 the Grants published the beautiful Images & Oracles of Austin Osman Spare, introducing his work – both written and artistic – to a new audience. The revival of interest in Spare in recent years owes a great deal to their efforts.
Like Spare, throughout his work Grant emphasised the primacy of the imagination; far from being mere whim or fancy, this is in fact the principal means for encountering and exploring the universe and our relationship to it. Grant’s work is primarily addressed to the imagination, and seeks to sound echoes in the consciousness of the reader of his work. As we have already seen, Grant described Eastern Mysticism as his first love, and during the 1950s he immersed himself in Advaita Vedanta — the realisation that consciousness is undivided — writing a series of articles for Asian journals which were later collected and published as At the Feet of the Guru. Though often thought of as a cult which glorifies individuality, Thelema is rooted in this soil, having much in common with Taoism.
With John Symonds, Crowley's literary executor, Grant edited Crowley's sprawling and rumbustious autobiography, The Confessions. This was published in 1969 and played a large part in bringing the work of Crowley to popular attention. Symonds and Grant built on this, continuing to edit and publish further works by Crowley throughout the 1970s, notably The Magical Record of the Beast 666, a selection of Crowley's diaries, and Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of the Law.
As well as this, over the years Kenneth Grant had been creating his own body of work, and in an article on Crowley’s work, 'Love Under Will', in the International Times during 1969 he referred to a study of his which was awaiting publication, entitled ‘Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God’. His publisher, Muller, subsequently split the work into two volumes, the first of which, The Magical Revival, was published in 1972. The second, published under the original title Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, followed in 1973. This was the beginning of the Typhonian Trilogies, the ninth and final volume of which, The Ninth Arch, was published in 2002. Thus was completed a substantial body of work which, though eclectic and covering vast areas of magic and mysticism, is firmly rooted in Thelema. In the course of this work, Grant took Thelema into areas beyond what are often considered to be the confines of Crowley’s work, in the process highlighting the universality of Thelema and its affinities with a wide range of traditions and disciplines.
As well as his Trilogies, Grant also published several volumes of poetry and a number of short stories and novellas. 1963 saw the publication of his first volume of poetry, Black to Black and other poems. An intense and moving collection of poems, this was followed in 1970 by The Gull’s Beak and other poems. A third volume was published in 2005, Convolvulus and other poems; this included the two previous volumes and added a third, previously unpublished collection, Convolvulus: Poems of Love and the Other Darkness. This collected volume included sketches by Austin Osman Spare, some of which had been specially drawn for Grant by Spare.
Grant had started writing short stories at a young age, and wrote his first novel in the early 1950s, Grist to Whose Mill? (soon to be published for the first time). Others followed, and were published from 1996 onwards. Most of these novels had been written during the period of New Isis Lodge, and revisited ahead of publication. They featured characters many of whom were based to a greater or lesser degree on members of the Lodge. Grant gave an insight into this in his dustjacket notes to the second volume in the series, Snakewand & the Darker Strain. Several years before his death Kenneth started work on another novella, Monolith: A Further Nightside Narrative, which unfortunately was never completed.
Though retaining a devotion to Crowley, Spare, and many other mystics and occultists whose work had influenced him throughout his life, Grant was never a follower but, on the contrary, created his own way from a number of influences, transformed through the crucible of his mystical and magical experience. He was acutely aware of the principle of parampara or spiritual lineage, whereby it is the responsibility of an initiate to develop the work of his predecessor, the predecessor in this case being Crowley. In the course of such development, new avenues of approach are opened up, whilst others are found to be perhaps now redundant. In this way, a body of work is a living thing, developed by generations of initiates.
Kenneth Grant’s work will become of increasing importance to Thelema. In the wake of his death, the immediate task is to ensure that all his work is once more in print and readily available, and to continue the explication of the principles which underlie that work. Beyond that, however, the body of work which he developed will, in its turn, be continued, worked upon and redeveloped by those coming after him; this is the greatest testament for which any of us can hope.

©Michael Staley – 2011 


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Q. What is the purpose of your books?

KG. The main purpose is to prepare people for encounters with unfamiliar states of consciousness.

Q. Do these include extraterrestrial encounters?

KG. Yes, extra-, sub-, and ultraterrestrial encounters.

Q. You think such events are imminent?

KG. They are likely at any time, but whether now or at some future period, their occurrence is certain and it is necessary to be prepared for such events.

Q. If these forms of consciousness are other than terrestrial what exactly are they?

KG. All one can say is that there will be extraterrestrial contacts, have in fact already been extraterrestrial contacts, but there will also be other forms of contact. But although man may learn to assimilate extraterrestrial contacts he may find it impossible to cope with those from the Other Side.

Q. Is that what you mean when you refer, in your books, to the back of the ‘Tree of Life’? Is that the Other Side?

KG. The ‘Tree’ serves as a comprehensive model. The known universe is represented by the hither side of the ‘Tree’, the unknown by the other side.

Q. And your books provide maps, so to speak, of the other side?

KG. They seek to indicate certain ‘gateways’ through which alien forms of consciousness may manifest to man, and through which man may go to meet them.

Q. The book you are now writing is entitled Outer Gateways. Do you suppose that such encounters are imminent because there is a desperate and word-wide wish that something, someone, somewhere will help us out of the mess we’ve made of things?

KG. Man has evoked certain energies, and therefore certain entities, the nature of which he is ignorant, and for confrontation with which he is almost totally unprepared.

Q. He has called them into being by his own folly?

KG. Ignorance is the prime culprit, but there are others. There is a deliberate and perverse determination on the part of man today to amass material possessions. Complete materialisation is desired and therefore a state of total materialism dominates and conditions his activities. With exclusively materialistic motivations man can but destroy himself for they admit of nothing beyond himself.

Q. And he is not equipped to face the consequences?

KG. Decidedly not. His attitude has closed his mind to real knowledge and deprived him of the power of recognising it when it presents itself, as it does today in numerous but unfamiliar forms. If man is to survive he will have to prepare himself for a total encounter with himself. Even so, it may be too late.

Q. How much time is required?

KG. That depends entirely upon individual circumstances. Time Outside is not as it is here; in fact, there is no time there where all is perpetually present. Man could realise instantaneously that present, and that presence, if he were not ignorant.

Q. Then it follows that certain individuals, perhaps those able to realise this Presence, would be immune to the explosion of new forms or consciousness?

KG. In a sense, that is so.

Q. In a physical sense?

KG. No survival is possible in a physical sense. Those that imagine there is are deluding themselves.

Q. But some individuals would survive in some state or other?

KG. In the states to which you allude there is no question of survival. Let us say that there will be a transformation. If man is able to integrate these new experiences into his psyche he must begin NOW to think in terms at least of extraterrestrial trial encounter. If he does this the rest may follow.

Q. All this suggests UFOs and similar phenomena. Surely, if such grave dangers are imminent those in authority will take steps to see that precautions are taken?

KG. How can they? Besides, it is well known that some governments are considered to be responsible for evasions and distortions of information about UFOs. But UFOs are merely projections within the terrestrial sphere, occasionally registered by waking and dreaming humans, and radar screens, of something beyond them; and those ‘in authority’ know nothing about that ‘something’.

Q. Your books do not treat specifically of Ufology.

KG. Others are taking care of that aspect of the matter; there are literally hundreds of books on the subject.

Q. But are they reliable?

KG. Their details are controversial and they are mainly speculative, but the fact of their existence in such abundance suggests that an increasing number of people are experiencing unfamiliar forms of consciousness, or that they are becoming aware of the existence of these forms.

Q. Which brings us back to my initial question: The purpose of your books?

KG. To provide concepts that are essentially strange so that the faculty of intuitive insight may be awakened and aligned with such alien concepts.

Q. Is this the reason for the inclusion in your books of weird sigils, symbols, and outré art?

KG. At this primitive stage of man’s evolution the visual sense is of paramount importance.

Q. Surely sound is equally important; yet you do not lecture.

KG. Sound is important, but in the form you have mentioned it can be a positive hindrance. All sorts of conflicting vibrations impinge upon the listener compared with the silence and stillness that attends the reader. And the reader can again immerse himself at will in the current, if necessary.

Q. So your negative attitude to lecturing is a positive affirmation of the power of silence?

KG. The silent or printed word is more potent than its spoken counterpart except in very exceptional cases, and it reaches those for whom it is intended. People attend lectures for different reasons, but few attend to gain knowledge. They go to meet people, to pass the time, but they are rarely affected deeply by the spoken word, which is quickly forgotten. Books on the other band have been known to change lives. My own was changed by Crowley’s Magick.

Q. Because it opened a gate for you?

KG. Precisely.

Q. But the Bible or the Koran can do that.

KG. Certainly they can, I mention Crowley because his work is more especially relevant to our present discussion.

Q. Have other occultists touched upon these matters?

KG. Blavatsky’s work is replete with insights that suggest she was in touch with some source of ultraterrestrial knowledge. The Book of Dzyan, of which The Secret Doctrine is a comment, contains evidence of contact with Outer Intelligence.

Q. The Bible, Blavatsky, Crowley... Are there any writers today who approach the subject from your particular angle?

KG. Not many.

Q. Why is this so if the subject is of such urgency?

KG. There are several reasons. The mystic, who is probably the most qualified, is concerned essentially with liberating consciousness from the illusion of embodied existence. The magician, on the other hand, seldom cares about status of consciousness that do not promote his personal aims. The mystic is little concerned with the ego; the magician’s is so inflated that he sees little else! The scientist bases his science upon the assumption that the world has a reality independent of consciousness. He therefore finds it difficult to understand the mystic or the magician, who do not.

Q. So there is no one you can name who writes intelligently about the subject?

KG. Somewhat surprisingly a few writers on Ufology, some of them ‘contactees’, have supplied valuable insights. Incidentally, Crowley himself could be classed as a contactee.

Q. He had contact with extraterrestrial Intelligence, hence the Message and the Mission?

KG. Not necessarily extraterrestrial, but certainly ultraterrestrial. Crowley described it as ‘praeterhuman’. The history of The Book of the Law as given in his Confessions reveals him as one of the more important contactees of our age. Some would say the most important.

Q. But contactees are considered disreputable because of their conflicting messages and outlandish statements.

KG. True, but the overall drift of the messages is similar in the majority of cases. One has to allow for the type of mentality through which they are channelled and by which they are interpreted. Very few contactees are versed in magick, mysticism, metaphysics, science. A distinction should be made between communications of a general ethical nature and those in the category of Dzyan and The Book of the Law, both of which contain specialised information and formulae.

Q. What is the message for the non-specialist?

KG. That caution is required in the use of the technologies which man is in process of developing. Owing to distorted growth, man in the mass suffers severe moral deficiencies. It is the defective moral element that threatens humanity with catastrophe.

Q. What exactly is the moral element to which you refer?

KG. The Will. The development of man’s will is in excess of his other moral faculties. He is strong willed but weak minded.

Q. You mean he wants things and will go to any lengths to acquire them?

KG. Precisely. Hitler was an extreme example; his will was a vampire force that grew monstrous at the expense of other faculties and was inflamed to the point of madness by a lust for power. On the other hand, his message, his doctrine, the vehicle of his will, was puerile to the point of idiocy. The same applies to many another so called leader of men.

Q. Crowley was not in this class?

KG. Crowley‘s mind was lucid and highly developed. Had his will been equal to it, the doctrine which he received may have gone far towards preparing man to deal with the new forms of consciousness that are now beginning to manifest. There is little evidence that contactees in recent years have any proper understanding of the messages they receive. What is not in doubt is that none has yet sufficient will effectively to transmit them. Crowley at least has provided a coherent system.

Q. What then is the solution?

KG. There is none. It may now be too late to think in terms of doctrines. They take time to be absorbed. As with all concerns of ultimate value it is up to the individual.

Q. A sort of ‘Operation Noah’s Ark’?

KG. Not exactly. Noah was able to take a lot with him.

Q. It’s no good if you can’t take it with you!

KG. That is a profound observation. If people understood it and acted accordingly no problems would ever arise, even those we have been discussing.

Q. Is there a document such as the Book of Dzyan, the Necronomicon, the Book of the Law, etc., that contains more specific references to the terms we have come to associate with your own books and the Typhonian gnosis which they express?

KG. The Wisdom of S’lba is one such document. It is presented in Outer Gateways, together with a preliminary analysis by way of a tentative comment.

Q. How was Wisdom of S’lba obtained, and when?

KG. It was ‘distilled’, by a protracted process extending over years, from the intensive Rituals performed in New Isis Lodge between 1955-1962. Some idea of the nature of these Rituals may be gathered from my book, Hecate‘s Fountain.

Q. Does ‘S’lba’ contain the keys you have discussed elsewhere in Outer Gateways?

KG. It does. It is the purpose of Outer Gateways to provide those keys but the ‘Wisdom’ must be lived, not merely discussed; and, preferably not discussed at all.


Interview with Kenneth Grant, first publication in SKOOB Occult Review, London, 1990.
©Kenneth Grant, 1990; ©S.V. Grant, 2011

 

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