"...The point that is made suddenly for us, in all moments of intensity and ecstasy, is that we are far stronger than we realise. We have all kinds of untapped powers which we seldom use. It's not a question of "how do you discipline yourself into states of ecstasy?" The real question is "how can you suddenly get into contact with the untapped powers?" And this is not terribly difficult since they really are there.
---You've said, for instance, that "we pant for breath when a single movement could open the window". But is it really that simple, do you think?
What I'm trying to get at when I say that, is that in a certain sense it is a kind of stupidity that keeps us from doing it at will. It's also our poor concept of ourselves and who we are. Most people don't know who they are because we need a "mirror" to see our faces in. One German jurist said "even a man who believes in nothing needs a girl to believe in him". In other words, he needs a picture, a mirror, to show back his own face.
---Do you agree with that?
Well yes, I mean the opposite sex is obviously an ideal way of seeing your own face, but so are other ways. I sometimes really realise what I'm all about in the midst of a lecture, and then something clicks inside me and I go into overdrive and quite suddenly I know who I am much more than I normally do.
---And with those sorts of "peak experiences" or those moments of insight - you talk about them coming unexpectedly. If, having looked into the fact that we should be able to do that, you have developed a way of, as you say, switching it on at will. To me that seems the hardest part of the whole process.
That's because you keep raising this misconception of "switching it on". What I keep saying is, you've got to know who you are. Once you've got a basic idea who you are, even if, for the time being, this gets troubled by clouds, like the sun, provided you absolutely know the sun is there, this doesn't matter at all. So it's not a matter of switching it on. Very often, by making an intense effort of will, you can make the clouds go away, and that's the most interesting thing about the body... I mean, for example, when I landed in Australia a week ago, I immediately got this filthy cold. I've noticed that in all of my lectures, the cold has gone away. I've even got worried that my voice is going to go, that I would choke and cough halfway through. In fact, the moment I get into my stride, away it goes, and comes back as soon as it's all over.
---I still want to pursue the idea of will. You've written about Aleister Crowley in a number of books, including Men of Mystery and The Nature of the Beast. It seems to me that a major element of his magick is about focusing will with the laser-like intensity. For instance, his maxims like "do what thou wilt", "love is the law", "lover under will", and that sort of thing - that doesn't sound far removed from the attitudes you're advocating. But on the other hand, you've called him a mountebank. What is your attitude to Crowley?
Crowley went straight to the heart of the matter when he said that "every man and woman is a star". And he obviously understood about our untapped powers. But the main trouble with Crowley as a person was that he was such a nasty bastard. He's the only person that I've ever written a book about that I would not have wanted to know. I mean, to begin with, he sponged mercilessly on his friends. As you know, with one friend he just went to the local liquor store and said "I'll put this on her account." She went back there about two months later after he'd gone, and found he'd run up a bill for a thousand pounds in bottles of gin, whisky and brandy.
---You'd make a distinction then, between his ideas and his behaviour?
This is the main problem, you see. Unfortunately, he was born into a more or less wealthy family, and once one has achieved that status of spoilt brat, it's incredibly difficult to get rid of. Nothing is more difficult to get rid of than spoiltness.
---But it seems to me that quite often with a lot of the writers you've written about, or whose lives you have looked into, they don't really live up to the standards they're writing about. They drink, or they die in despair.
...Here was I saying, in The Outsider: 'Look, you've got to stop being self-pitying, somehow you have got to stop being the miserable Outsiders saying you don't want anything to do with this lousy material world, because if you don't do something about this lousy material world, nobody else will. You yourselves have got to take over and become the leaders'. And this was what I was basically saying in The Outsider..."