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The Stele, The Museum and The Book


lashtal
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The life of Aleister Crowley is meticulously documented: his various autobiographical accounts, letters and diaries mean that we can establish where he was and what he was doing for pretty much any day of his adult life.

For a life lived so publicly, though, there is one brief period of time, the absence of documented accounts for which have led to controversy. I refer, of course, to the circumstances surrounding The Book Of The Law.

I'm not interested here so much in the physical writing of the text itself, how Rose was able to fill in lacunae subsequent to the actual writing, for example. What does interest me is the days and weeks preceding and following the event.

There's the often-discussed complication caused by Crowley's reference in The Equinox Of The Gods to the writing being on the "First of April", contradicted elsewhere in the same book. There's Crowley's period of time spent in Cairo before marrying Rose. There's the meeting of Crowley with staff from the Museum in order to discuss the "abstruction".

Did Crowley take possession of the stele, for it to be replaced by a copy? Why does the stele in the photograph of him with it look so old? And why does he look so young in the photograph? Why did Crowley refer to the stele being in the Museum atBoulaq when it had already been moved to the current Cairo Museum?

I won't bother re-stating all the elements of the controversy, and I'm most definitely not looking for just a statement of opinions here: I would love to hear some facts, though!

Paul
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 Anonymous
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I have opened the original Equinox I vol 7 which states

"It must have been on the 7th of April that W. commanded P. ... to enter the "temple" exactly at 12 o'clock noon on three successive days, and to write down what he should hear, rising exactly at 1 o'clock."

I see this a possibly not the date of the working but the permission to commence it, on three successive days, NOT april 1,2,3. I assume the three days were April 8,9,10 intuitively, however in Regardies commentary to "AHA!" he states they stared on April 7th.

My conclusion is they DID begin on the 8th, even as there are some who might say April 1st as possible which they then changed because its Joke appeal could not be lived down..

Curious nonetheless.
Regards.


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OKontrair
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Regardie wasn't there so forget him.

Cairo hotels published the names of guests and there are some entries reproduced on the site of the much missed Excoriator. Various entries for February and March but nothing for April. Not evidence of course except as in the dog that didn't bark.

Good early pictures of the stele (1878) too.

OK


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lashtal
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Hi OKontrair,

Always pleased to see you here!

"OKontrair" wrote:
the much missed Excoriator.

I feel the same way - he was an excellent contributor to the site's Forums and his website is the source for much useful information for those of us convinced that the Egyptological aspects of Thelema are very important.

I did try to encourage him to return, by extending an unequivocal olive branch of sorts, but I think he feels his future lies elsewhere.

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 Anonymous
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The original Bulaq museum only had one floor; Crowley describes being led upstairs to a second floor by Rose when she introduced him to the Stele of Revealing, so there is no doubt as to which building Crowley was in--the Egyptian museum of antiquities. Enclosed is a link to a recent map of Cairo that shows the area of Bulaq, the Egyptian museum, and the Nile Hilton. Though neither the Nile Hilton nor the museum are within the technical boundaries of Bulaq, the Nile Hilton is advertised as located in Bulaq, so there is at least one good reason to assume that the Egyptian museum is also commonly thought to be located in Bulaq.

http://www.cairotourist.com/Map04.htm

Crowley mentions dining with museum officials and arranging for a copy of the stele to be made--I have seen no evidence whatsoever that Crowley intended, or tried to acquire the stele itself. The damage to the upper area of the front of the stele is unmistakable, and absent from the copy Crowley commissioned.

The Cairo working from start to finish was a drawn out affair--approximately three weeks; it seems there was little rush to accomplish anything. The instruction provided to Crowley on the first of April to prepare to receive three successive days of dictation several days later conforms to the overall slow process that took place.

I find it hard to believe that after three weeks of intermittent communications from Rose that led up to the dictation of the Book of the Law, Crowley would have left the manuscript out in the open on a table where the cover sheet ended up covered with doodlings and coffee cup stains; the abuse placed on the cover sheet indicates it was created several days before the text of the manuscript was received, which supports the theory that Crowley was instructed on the first of April to receive the Book on the 8th-10th.

Nexus93


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Besides the event being a hoax or not, there's an important philosophical consideration: it seems to me that, if the events as described are true, Crowley tapped into some local forces that dictated their laws through his mindset. I think everyone will agree with this.

The point, however, is that I fail to see what the mumblings of 3000 year old deities have to do with a New Aeon, or a world religion in general.

As a manifestation of a New Aeon it's unimpressive *precisely* because of the choice of location. It's like Crowley channeled Muhammed in Mecca, or Jesus in Bethlehem.

I find it very fishy to think you can create a world religion out of a egyptian revival - IOW I find the work acceptable as a set of magical laws dictated by said entities but why pretend it's something else? The document itself says absolutely nothing about a New Aeon!

Martijn


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lashtal
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Perhaps we can keep this thread on the facts of the case? Opinions are plentiful and are best covered in the other Egyptological thread ongoing at the moment.

Nexus93: You raise some very interesting issues. Which photos of the stele show the same damage to the upper right that you mention?

Crowley refers in his Royal Court Diaries, by the way, in his latest years to the stele in his possession. Anyone know where he got this one? Was it amongst his effects?

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Nexus93: You raise some very interesting issues. Which photos of the stele show the same damage to the upper right that you mention?

I tried searching the web for photos of the stele that are fairly recent and unprocessed through color filtering, photoshopping, or other methods of alteration, and could find none immediately. I have seen them, and was surprised by how worn the stele looked, mainly from chipping in the stucco. At least one Thelemite showed pictures on T93-L that were taken on visit to Egypt around 1999.

As pointed out by Colin Mcleod, the only pictures that are not in question as photos of the genuine item are the two he has posted on his website, taken prior to 1904, and those show only the reverse side. The interesting thing about those photos is they are not pictures of the stele used in the photos found in the Equinox of the Gods, or the Commentaries of Al, (both sets of pics are identical) which forces a logical conclusion; the actual stele was never in Crowley's possession, or he or whoever was in charge would have used photos of the original instead of photos of a reproduction.

Crowley refers in his Royal Court Diaries, by the way, in his latest years to the stele in his possession. Anyone know where he got this one? Was it amongst his effects?

It was quite likely the one made for Crowley by the museum, and the one seen in the photos found in the aforementioned works.


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lashtal
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"Nexus93" wrote:
I tried searching the web for photos of the stele that are fairly recent and unprocessed through color filtering, photoshopping, or other methods of alteration, and could find none immediately. I have seen them, and was surprised by how worn the stele looked, mainly from chipping in the stucco. At least one Thelemite showed pictures on T93-L that were taken on visit to Egypt around 1999.

But you said, quite unequivocally, that "The damage to the upper area of the front of the stele is unmistakable, and absent from the copy Crowley commissioned." So it's just another opinion? Fair enough, but I'm looking after facts.

"Nexus93" wrote:
As pointed out by Colin Mcleod, the only pictures that are not in question as photos of the genuine item are the two he has posted on his website, taken prior to 1904, and those show only the reverse side. The interesting thing about those photos is they are not pictures of the stele used in the photos found in the Equinox of the Gods, or the Commentaries of Al, (both sets of pics are identical) which forces a logical conclusion; the actual stele was never in Crowley's possession, or he or whoever was in charge would have used photos of the original instead of photos of a reproduction.

Well, of course.

But are they photographs of the same stele as reproduced in Magick?

"Nexus93" wrote:
It was quite likely the one made for Crowley by the museum, and the one seen in the photos found in the aforementioned works.

"Quite likely"? But Leah in her diaries describes selling the stele to obtain funds for food for herself and Norman Mudd. So how do you arrive at the "quite likely the one made for Crowley by the museum" remark?

Again, I'm already aware of the opinions... It's facts I'm after.

Paul
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ianrons
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93 Paul,

I think it'll be necessary to point to a difference between modern photographs of the Stélé and the ones on Colin McLeod's site, at least for prima facie evidence. As you know, I haven't found any yet; but it is an interesting idea, and I'd personally love the idea of the "abstruction" being something a little more than a reproduction. I don't think Zahi Hawass would, though.

BTW, as I've said to you and Colin McLeod, my best analysis of the word "abstruction" (from the Latin) is as "a setting up in another place": as if the original Stélé were to be moved from out of the "ill-ordered house" (where they have been excavating their own artefacts from the force of time and gravity in recent years, apparently). But quite a lot of Liber AL was never fulfilled in AC's lifetime.

If you find a discrepancy between the photographs, do you think we might approach the Supreme Council of Antiquities for a chip of the Stélé to be dated?!

93 93/93
Ian


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Anonymous
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I just got back from Egypt and have a couple of photos of the stele as it is on display in room 222 of the Cairo Museum. Cameras were not allowed that day but I found a way around the rule. If anyone wants to see them , I can email you.

Ryan Almond : TreeDragon7@aol.com


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OKontrair
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I see the Boulaq question as a red herring; just a simple misremembrance of the name of a location. Even though Boulaq is definitely a separate place and the modern museum is not in it but just outside it. Even though it used to be separated by a canal, surface railway and was sometimes called an island (which it isn't). I could not find the Nile Hilton's advertising itself as in Boulaq but instead sites advertising the hotel also offering trips out to Boulaq. None of this matters because the (a) stele was in its present location before 1904 and was called No.666

There are two 1878 photographs on Colin McCleod's admirable site. They appear disimilar. In my opinion the one shown head-on is overlit causing it to look washed out and the markings thinner and lighter. Especially the top row which otherwise is darker than the other rows. Consider the one shown obliquely where the markings are perhaps darker and thicker due to foreshortening.

Comparing the pattern of the brush marks on the top, darker row and the shapes of the variations from true of the 'ruled' divisions between rows - the thicks and thins and the little break in line six - I have formed the opinion that the depiction in Magick and the 1878 photo are of the same object. Even though the 'real' one looks bright and shiny and AC's stele downright dingy.

The cover of Liber L is another interesting mystery. Until Nexus93 suggested it I would never have considered it to have been produced before the event. The 'doodles' though strike me as important information with the much ammended remarks about automatic writing. Exact dating is probably impossible but it looks to have been done in Egypt because of the crest in the top left corner is in Arabic (below the crown and scribbled out). This means it is on different paper to Liber 31 (London watermark). It looks more like a discarded design for a title page than a cover. If it is now in the University of Texas not impossibly it came via the Fuller collection. The coffee stains might have happened anytime.

How can he look so young being as he was 35 in 1910? The camera always lies? Wash and brush up? New razor? Make up? Elixir of life? How old does he look - 20? The photo cannot have been taken in 1895 so the image is an illusion as he looks older in the Works portraits (30ish). With studio portraits there are usually multiple shots for the customer to choose from. In the Yorke collection there are photos listed with AC's comments on which to use. List not to hand at the moment but I remember one remark to the effect that one photo was not to be used because it made him look "too friendly". My presumption is that he chose a flattering likeness.

OK


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frater_anubis
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the stele as it is on display in room 222 of the Cairo Museum

I too have just returned from a lengthy stay in Cairo. The Stela is in Room 22 on the first floor of the Cairo Museum, not 222. It is a fact that in comparison to other stelae in the same glass case, the Stela of Ankh-f-n-Khonsu does look remarkably well preserved. Indeed, if you look closely, you can see paint runs and a suggestion of a fingerprint..... The original label numbered 666 is still there, to the bottom left of the Stela. Incidentally, the Stela itself seems to be made from wood, the others in the case are in much poorer condition & seem to be made of some sort of plaster. No opinions here Paul, just my observations. Nice to be back btw.


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lashtal
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Welcome back - I envy your visit to Cairo. I'm just starting to plan my next visit there, probably second quarter next year.

The stela is definitely made of wood covered with plaster (or "stucco") - it really does stand out in its cabinet, doesn't it?

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frater_anubis
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Thanks Paul... Cairo is an amazing place, once you learn how to cross the street without being mown down by their absolutely manic drivers!

Yes, the Stela is prominent on the bottom shelf of the cabinet in spite of itś small size. One always attracts curious stares from the tourists, crouched down with your nose pressed against the glass, examining it........I wish they would display it so that the reverse side is visible.

While there I heard there are plans to re-locate the Cairo Museum to Giza near the pyramids, in a bigger building with more galleries so as to display the 90% of their stuff that is locked away in the basement. Apparently they have plans to build a special railway line to transport the heavier statuary to the new location.

One hopes the Stela survives the move, and receives a more fitting display for so august a relic....


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lashtal
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Absolutely...

Okay, so Crowley visited Egypt three times. Once in 1902, to spend some quality time avoiding the pyramids, staying at the Shepheard's Hotel and "wallowing in the fish market", the red light district of Cairo at the time. Next was near the beginning of his and Rose's honeymoon, when he spent the night in the Great Pyramid, reciting from The Goetia. And third was when the honeymoon was cut short by Rose's pregnancy, arriving in March 1904 for the Cairo Working and all that followed it.

So, Crowley visited Egypt almost casually, as suited a man in his social position, until he received the text purporting to relate to the "Warrior Lord of Thebes" and Ankh-f-n-Khonsu, priest of the princes at Karnak. But he chose not to take the relatively short river trip to Luxor and never to return even to Cairo, despite visiting North Africa a number of times over the next couple of decades?

By the way, I should respond in passing to:

"Nexus93" wrote:
Crowley mentions dining with museum officials and arranging for a copy of the stele to be made--I have seen no evidence whatsoever that Crowley intended, or tried to acquire the stele itself.

Of course, that all depends on what Crowley understood by the term "abstruct". As he wrote in The Equinox Of The Gods:

Brugsch Bey of the Boulak Museum dined with us once to discuss the Stele in his charge, and to arrange for its "abstruction." His French assistant curator, who translated the hieroglyphs on the Stele for us.

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frater_anubis
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is there any other reference in her diaries as to which stele was sold?


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