Home Forums Aleister Crowley Writer NEMO makes black hands white

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  • #111915

    Michael Staley
    Participant

    “NEMO makes black hands white” – and variations thereof – is a phrase which occurs several times in the letters exchanged between Charles Stansfeld Jones and Gerald Yorke in the course of their 1948/1949 correspondence, It probably comes from something written by Crowley, but I’ve not traced it yet.

    Has anybody here come across this phrase, or something like it?

    #111923

    ignant666
    Participant

    Never.

    What the actual fuck can this mean?! I mean, we all know who NEMO is, but what can it mean to make “black hands” (literal? metaphorical?) “white” (same questions)????

    Any hints from context as to meaning of this very intriguing and baffling phrase?

    #111924

    Michael Staley
    Participant

    @ignant666

    Any hints from context as to meaning of this very intriguing and baffling phrase?

    The phrase first occurs in Yorke’s letter to Achad of 11th February 1948. He was writing to notify Achad formally of Crowley’s death; to ask for a copy of Liber 31 for his collection of Crowleyana; and to let him know that Symonds was writing a biography of Crowley, in case Achad had something which could be of importance in this connection:

    “Should NEMO still wish to “make black hands white”, I shall be glad to send any material from you to John Symonds, who as literary executor to A.C. is writing a Life from the MSS material before it is shipped to America. I doubt however that you have much material, and am not myself personally interested in curing the wound of Amfortas.”

    The fact that Yorke placed the phrase in inverted commas makes me think that it was a quote. I did wonder if it might be a reference to something in their earlier correspondence of 1929 and 1930, but the surviving letters from then have no such mention.

    In a letter of 5th March 1948, Achad took up the phrase:

    “First in regard to two points in your letter to which I made no reference yesterday. No, NEMO sees no immediate need for trying to “Make Black Hands White”. But I have got a great mass of material connected with A.C. and my own magical life, and just what will eventually become of it I do not at present know.”

    It’s a curious phrase which rang a bell with me when first coming across it, but I have not been able to source this precise phrase.

    #111926

    ignant666
    Participant

    Now i realize this is after AC’s death, so NEMO must be Achad, who was 8=3, not AC as i’d first assumed.

    The use of quotation marks almost suggests this is some sort of cliche, catch-phrase, or quotation. Definitely can’t recall ever encountering this phrase anywhere before. As you have doubtless already found out, googling produces lots of results for Indian hand-bleaching kits, apparently as some sort of beauty treatment, which does not seem helpful.

    #111927

    belmurru
    Participant

    Seems to have been a Word (of the Equinox?) of 1926, perhaps got by AC or Achad.

    “Jones, Charles Stansfeld
    Yorke, Gerald J.: Mar 5, 1948
    “Liber 31, NEMO sees no immediate need to make Black Hands White, the Word of 1926, only saw The Equinox of the Gods proof-sheets, never the complete copy. What is the Ipsissimus document? PS re: Tunis statement, Autumn Equinox, 1923.”

    Part of the same correspondence?

    https://archives.bapho.net/jlist.htm

    Not a Word of the Equinox, according to this list, at least not AC’s Words –

    The Words of the Equinox

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by  belmurru.
    • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by  belmurru.
    #111930

    Tiger
    Participant

    It rouses
    Steffi Grants
    He shall come
    https://goo.gl/images/1YDeUQ

    #111931

    Michael Staley
    Participant

    @belmurru

    Many thanks for your reply, No, there doesn’t seem a connection with the Word of the Equinox. The text you quote from the listings of the archives of bapho.net is simply a summary of some of the topics covered in the letter Achad to Yorke of 5th March, some sentences from which I quoted above. There is actually no linkage in the letter itself between “Make Black Hands White” and the Word of 1926. Achad is I think referring here to his own Word of 1926, MANIO, giving rise to one of the most gorgeous letter-heads my young eyes have ever had the pleasure of seeing:

    http://www.starfirepublishing.co.uk/

    @ignant666

    Yes, attempts to Google this phrase have brought forth a welter of entertainment.

    #111932

    elitemachinery
    Participant

    Could this be something people in the publishing business or people who work directly with printing presses and ink say to each other? Working with ink and paper is very hard on the hands especially 100 years ago. I would imagine the hands would turn black with ink over time. I once had a girlfriend who worked for Herb Ritts printing all of his photographs daily and submerging her hands in chemicals. Her hands were always destroyed from the work and the chemicals.

    #111933

    Tiger
    Participant
    #111934

    ignant666
    Participant

    If i encountered that phrase in a day-to-day mid-20th century historical context, sans occult baggage, my first thought would be that this is a joking reference to an advertising catchphrase in an ad for soap, or a hand cleanser like those used by mechanics to remove grease (Gojo is a US brand of this latter thing).

    #111935

    Tiger
    Participant

    maybe the star emission will awaken the church to abandon charging the troglodyte for an arbitration fee and wash its hands .

    #111936

    Bedazzled
    Participant

    It seems to carry the meaning of reversing an ill or a harm – the reference to Amfortas reinforces this. ‘Make black hands white’ almost has an Ancient Egyptian tone to it.

    #111937

    Shiva
    Participant

    Ig: (Gojo is a US brand of this latter thing)

    Gojo has the Mojo.

    #111942

    elitemachinery
    Participant

    @ignant666 said:

    “If i encountered that phrase in a day-to-day mid-20th century historical context, sans occult baggage, my first thought would be that this is a joking reference to an advertising catchphrase in an ad for soap, or a hand cleanser like those used by mechanics to remove grease (Gojo is a US brand of this latter thing).”

    I would investigate further along these lines. Remember, there was no TV in these days but most likely lots of annoying radio adverts, repeating ad nauseam.

    As an example. Imagine this ad playing on the radio over and over all day.

    LAVA hand soap ad:

    #111943

    Michael Staley
    Participant

    @elitemachinery

    I would investigate further along these lines. Remember, there was no TV in these days but most likely lots of annoying radio adverts, repeating ad nauseam.

    That’s an interesting point; thanks.

    So far as I’m aware there were no commercial radio stations in England at the time. The only radio was that of the national broadcaster, the BBC; so none of those annoying radio adverts. But yes, perhaps Yorke was picking up a phrase from a well-known newspaper advert of the day.

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