The Hermetic Great Work can be summed up as the liberation of the spiritual from the material. Crowley was introduced to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn by a man named George Cecil Jones after a casual conversation on the subject of alchemy in a Zermatt, Switzerland hotel in 1898. Jones recommended Crowley to this very influential British Masonic offshoot. Crowley was a bit disappointed at first with the Golden Dawn. The order didn't seem to reveal either the saints of Eckarthausen's sublime Sanctuary or the breadth and vision of Rabelais's Abbey of Thelema (see note at end of paragraph). Still Crowley began his magical training with his characteristic discipline, powerful concentration and thouroughness.
Note from pages 440-441 in Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: 12.) The first part of Crowley's famous watchword-"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law"-comes from the rule of the Abbey of Thelema (Greek for "will") in Francois Rabelais's Heroic Deeds of Gargantua and Pantagruel (c.1532). Rabelais was included as a saint of the Gnostic Church in Crowley's Gnostic Mass. Taking the following extract into account it is not difficult to see why: All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their beds when they thought good: they did eat, drink, labour, sleep, when they had a mind to it, and were disposed for it. None did awake them, none did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor to do any other thing; for so had Gargantua established it. In all of their rule, and strictest tie to their order, there was but one clause to be observed, DO WHAT THOU WILT. Because men that are free, well-born, and bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them into virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour..."
In 1899, Crowley met Allan Bennett, a fellow brother in the order, and together they began to work on a more intense magical program. Crowley turned his flat in Chancery Lane, where he lived as Count Zvareff into a magical temple. He also met Samuel Liddell "MacGregor" Mathers, who was the chief of the Golden Dawn. Mathers had also translated The Key of Solomon the King and The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, and was a Celtic enthusiast and admirer of the French Occult Revival.
Crowley believed that Mathers had "that habit of authority which never questions itself and so inspires respect." In 1899 Crowley also bought a country residence befitting his own fading Celtic revivalist enthusiasms: Boleskin House, Foyers, near Inverness. From Boleskin House that year, Crowley wrote a letter to a brother in the order. Even though he was still very young (24) one can already surmise his inclination towards the role of a teacher on the road to becoming a master: Care Frater,
You can only curse a spirit because you have conjured him by the Great Names of God the Vast One, and he obeyeth Them not. You cannot use these Names unless you are yourself in accordance with His Will...
My First Magical Operation was devoted to the Invocation of That One whom Abramelin calls Guardian Angel. As also it is written: So help me the Lord of the Universe and My own Higher Soul! And without the Aspiration to, and in a little measure, the grasp of this: no White Magic is possible. "In myself I am nothing: in Thee I am All-Self." Therefore you are not of a position to act as Master: for you are not yet Master of yourself, not even in communication consciously with That One who hath made you His Habitation.
Therefore, it is necessary First to reach unto your own Kether [Crown; the higher mind of the Kabbalist]: that the influence of the Most Holy Ancient One descend upon you: and then: "all things will appear easy to you."
...As to Abramelin, he is a quite different bird. You devote six moons to the purification of your sphere or "aura." Then you can invoke the Angel with complete success. Then you can compel the Forces of the World-the "visible Image of the Soul of Nature" to your service. This Operation is so Awful that I cannot find any words to tell you about it. I may now say that I have devoted my life since our fortnight at Folkestone to the Beginning of it. And the oppositions on every plane have been tremendous. Even now, the copying of the symbol is so terrible a task that I can barely finish a dozen daily. After that my brain seems to reel, the characters dance around me, and it is useless to proceed. And this while putting any magical force into them in the making. If you wish to try Abramelin, God forbid I should hinder you. But I warn you that for all its apparent simplicity and ease, it will be a bigger job than anything you have ever tackled in your life.
...The part about the Angel and my intention of doing Abramelin is very secret-not from obligation standpoint, but from its extreme sacred character. To no other person inside or outside the Order, would I have spoken thus plainly. But as I said above, what will not paternal affection do?
I hope to post again fairly soon-by the weekend maybe? All of the information in the last two articles comes from Tobias Churton's Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times. There is much more in the chapter on Crowley in his book, and this is what I would like to continue with when I come back and also keep going with the "mythical creatures" series. Thanks again for all of your fantastic and thoughtful comments!