Saturday, 21 December 2013

Cocaine - by Aleister Crowley

                               Aleister Crowley 

 In its original publication, in The International XI(10) for October 1917 EV, 
this article carried this editorial note: `
`We disagree with our gifted con-
tributing editor on some points, but nevertheless we regard this article as 
one of the most important studies of the deleterious effects of a drug that, 
according to police statistics, is beginning to be a serious menace to our 
Now, some sixty years later, it is more relevant than ever, especially to Americans, since Crowley was residing in, and largely writing about, the
United States. It is also interesting to note that the broad outlines of the 
social and -- well, moral -- crises predicted by Crowley are now standard 
Newsweek and Time magazine cover material. 
While Crowley's prescription for 
ending the drug-abuse crisis may appear harsh to some readers, it had a deeply
-rooted religious basis for Crowley in The Book of the Law (see his comment-
aries to AL ??:??.) 
Readers should however consult Crowley's Synopsis of Six 
Articles on Drugs (Magical Link I(?), new series, Sept.? 1987), his ``stopping 
herion diary'' Liber 28 (Ibid., I(?-?), Aug.-Sept. 1987), and finally his 
novel, Diary of a Drug Fiend (first published 1922 EV) for his later, more 
fully-developed thoughts on the subjects of drug addiction and rehabilitation. 
 ``There is a happy land, far, far, away.''



OF ALL THE GRACES that cluster about the throne of Venus the most timid and 
elusive is that maiden whom mortals call Happiness. None is so eagerly pur-
sued; none is so hard to win. Indeed, only the saints and martyrs, unknown 
usually to their fellow-men, have made her theirs; and they have attained her 
by burning out the Ego-sense in themselves with the white-hot steel of medita-
tion, by dissolving themselves in that divine ocean of Consciousness whose 
foam is passionless and perfect bliss.

To others, Happiness only comes by chance; when least sought, perhaps she is 
there. Seek, and ye shall not find; ask, and ye shall not receive; knock, and 
it shall not be opened unto you. Happiness is always a divine accident. It is 
not a definite quality; it is the bloom of circumstances. It is useless to mix 
its ingredients; the experiments in life which have produced it in the past 
may be repeated endlessly, and with infinite skill and variety -- in vain.

It seems more than a fairy story that so metaphysical an entity should yet be 
producible in a moment by no means of wisdom, no formula of magic, but by a 
simple herb. The wisest man cannot add happiness to others, though they be 
dowered with youth, beauty, wealth, health, with and love: the lowest black-
guard shivering in rags, destitute, diseased, old, craven, stupid, a mere 
morass of envy, may have it with one swift-sucked breath. The thing is as 
paradoxical as life, as mystical as death.
Look at this shining heap of crystals! They are Hydrochloride of Cocaine. The 
geologist will think of mica; to me, the mountaineer, they are like those 
gleaming feathery flakes of snow, flowering mostly where rocks just from the 
ice of crevassed glaciers, that wind and sun have kissed to ghostliness. To 
those who know not the green hills, they may suggest the snow that spangles 
trees with blossoms glittering and lucid. The kingdom of faery has such jewels.
To him who tastes them in his nostrils -- to their acolyte and slave -- they 
must seem as if the dew of the breath of some great demon of Immensity were 
frozen by the cold of space upon his beard.
For there was never any elixir so instant magic as cocaine. Give to no matter 
whom. Choose me the last losel on the earth; let him suffer all the tortures 
of disease; take hope, take faith, take love away from him. Then look, see the 
back of that worn hand, its skin discolored and wrinkled, perhaps inflamed 
with agonizing eczema, perhaps putrid with some malignant sore. He places on 
it that shimmering snow, a few grains only, a little pile of starry dust. The 
wasted arm is slowly raised to the head that is little more than a skull; the 
feeble breath draws in that radiant powder. Now we must wait. One minute -- 
perhaps five minutes.

Then happens the miracle of miracles, as sure as death, and yet as masterful 
as life; a thing mroe miraculous, becasuse so sudden, so apart from the usual 
course of evolution. Natura nono facit saltum -- nature never makes a leap. 
True -- therefore this miracle is a thing as it were against nature.

The melancholy vanishes; the eyes shine; the wan mouth smiles. Amlost manly 
vigor returns, or seems to return. At least faith, hope and love throng very 
eagerly to the dance; all that was lost is found.
The man is happy.
To one the drug may bring liveliness, to another languor; to another creative
 force, to another tireless energy, to another glamor, and to yet another lust. 
But each in his way is happy. Think of it! -- so simple and so transcendental! 
The man is happy!
I have traveled in every quarter of the globe; I have seen such wonders of 
Nature that my pen yet splutters when I try to tell them; I have seen many a 
miracle of the genuis of man; but I have never seen a marvel like to this. 

IS THERE NOT a school of philosophers, cold and cynical, that accounts God to
 be a mocker? That thinks He takes His pleasure in contempt of the littleness 
of His creatures. They should base their theses on cocaine! For here is 
bitterness, irony, cruelty ineffable. This gift of sudden and sure happiness 
is given but to tantalize. The story of Job holds no such acrid draught. What 
were more icy hate, fiend comedy than this, to offer such a boon, and add 
``This you must not take?'' Could not we be left to brave the miseries of 
life, bad as they are, without this master pang, to know perfection of all joy 
within our reach, and the price of that joy a tenfold quickening of our 
The happiness of cocaine isnot passive or placid as that of beasts; it is self-
conscious. It tells man what he is, and what he might be; it offers him the 
semblance of divinity, only that he may know himself a worm. It awakes dis-
content so acutely that never shall it sleep again. It creates hunger. Give 
cocaine to a man already wise, schooled to the world, morally forceful, a man 
of intelligence and self-control. If he be really master of himself, it will 
do him no harm. He will know it for a snare; he will beward of repeating such 
experiments as he may make; and the glimpse of his goal may possibly even spur 
him to its attainment by those means which God hass appointed for His saints.
But give it to the clod, to the self-indulgent, to the blase;aa; -- to the 
average man, in a word -- and he is lost. He says, and his logic is perfect: 
This is what I want. He knows not, neither can know, the true path; and the 
false path is the only one for him. There is cocaine at his need, and he takes 
it again and again. The contrast between his grub life and his butterfly life 
is too bitter for his unphilosophic soul to bear; he refuses to take the brim-
stone with the treacle.

And so he can no longer tolerate the moments of unhappiness; that is, of normal 
life; for he now so names it. The intervals between his indulgences diminish.

And alas! the power of the drug diminishes with fearful pace. The doses wax; 
the pleasures wane. Side-issues, invisible at first, arise; they are like 
devils with flaming pitchforks in their hands.
A single trial of the drug brings no noticeable reaction in a healthy man. He
does to bed in due season, sleeps well, and wakes fresh. South American 
Indians habitually chew this drug in its crude form, when upon the march, and 
accomplish prodigies, defying hunger, thirst, and fatigue. But they only use 
it in extremity; and long rest with ample food enables the body to rebuild its 
capital. Also, savages, unlike most dwellers in cities, have a moral sense and 
The same is true of the Chinese and Indians in their use of opium. Every one 
uses it, and only in the rarest cases does it become a vice. It is with them 
almost as tobacco is with us.
But to one who abuses cocainefor his pleasure nature soon speaks; and is not 
heard. The nerves weary of the constant stimulation; they need rest and food. 
There is a point at which the jaded horse no longer answers whip and spur. He 
stumbles, falls a quivering heap, gasps out his life.

So perishes the slave of cocaine. With every nerve clamoring, all he can do is 
renew the lash of poison. The pharmaceutical effect is over; the toxic effect 
accumulates. The nerves become insane. The victim begins to have hallucinations. ``See! There is a grey cat in that chair. I said nothing, but it has 
been there all the time.''
Or, there are rats. ``I love to watch them running up the curtains. Oh yes! I
know they are not real rats. That's a real rat, though, on the floor. I nearly 
killed it that time. That is the original rat I saw; it's a real rat. I saw it 
first on my window-will one night.''
Such, quietly enough spoken, is mania. And soon the pleasure passes; is 
followed by its opposite, as Eros by Anteros.
``Oh no! they never come near me.'' A few days pass, and they are crawling on
the skin, gnawing interminably and intolerably, loathsome and remorseless.
It is needless to picture the end, prolonged as this may be, for despite the 
baffling skill developed by the drug-lust, the insane condition hampers the 
patient, and often forced abstinence for a while goes far to appease the 
physical and mental symptoms. Then a new supply is procured, and with tenfold 
zeal the maniac, taking the bit between his teeth, gallops to the black edge 
of death.
And before that death comes all the torments of damnation. The time-sense is 
destroyed, so that an hour's abstinence may hold more horrors than a century 
of normal time-and-space-bound pain.
Psychologists little understand how the physiological cycle of life, and the 
normality of the brain, make existence petty both for good and ill. To realize 
it, fast for a day or two; see how life drags with a constant subconscious 
ache. With drug hunger, ths effect is multiplied a thousandfold. Time itself 
is abolished; the real metaphyscial eternal hell is actually present in the 
consciousness which has lost its limits without finding him who is without 

 MUCH OF THIS is well known; the dramatic sense has forced me to emphasize what 
is commonly understood, because of the height of the tragedy -- or of the 
comedy, if one have that power of detachment from mankind which we attribute 
only to the greatest of men, to the Aristophanes, the Shakespeares, the 
Balzacs, the Rabelais, the Voltaires, the Byrons, that power which makes poets 
at one time pitiful of the woes of men, at another gleefully contemptuous of 
their discomfiture.
But I should wiselier have emphasized the fact that the very best men may use
this drug, and many another, with benefit to themselves and to humanity. Even 
as the Indians of whom I spoke above, they will use it only to accomplish some 
great work which they could not do without it. I instance Herbert Spencer, who 
took morphine daily, never exceeding an appointed dose. Wilkie Collins, too, 
overcame the agony of rheumatic gout with laudanum, and gave us masterpieces 
not surpassed.
Some went too far. Baudelaire crucified himself, mind and body, in his love 
for humanity; Verlaine became at last the slave where he had been so long the 
master. Francis Thompson killed himself with opium; so did Edgar Allen Poe. 
James Thomson did the same with alcohol. The cases of de Quincey and H.G. 
Ludlow are lesser, but similar, with laudanum and hashish, respectively. The 
great Paracelsus, who discovered hydrogen, zinc and opium, deliberately 
employed the excitement of alcohol, counterbalanced by violent physical 
exercise, to bring out the powers of his mind.
Coleridge did his best while under opium, and we owe the loss of the end of 
Kubla Khan to the interruption of an importunate ``man from Porlock,'' every 
accursed in the history of the human race! 

 CONSIDER THE DEBT of mankind to opium. It is acquitted by the deaths of a few
wastrels from its abuse?
For the importance of this paper is the discussion of the practical question:
should drugs be accessible to the public?
Here I pause in order the beg the indulgence of the American people. I am 
obliged to take a standpoint at once startling and unpopular. I am in the 
unenviable position of one who asks others to shut their eyes to the 
particular that they may thereby visualize the general.
But I believe that in the matter of legislation America is proceeding in the 
main upon a wholly false theory. I believe that constructive morality is 
better than repression. I believe that democracy, more than any other form of 
government, should trust the people, as it specifically pretends to do.

Now it seems to me better and bolder tactics to attack the opposite theory at
its very strongest point.
It should be shown that not even in the most arguable cse is a government 
justified in restricting use on account of abuse; or allowing justificaiton, 
let us dispute about expediency.
So, to the bastion -- should ``habit-forming'' drugs be accessible to the 
The matter is of immediate interest: for the admitted failure of the Harrison
Law has brought about a new proposal -- one to make bad worse.
I will not here argue the grand thesis of liberty. Free men have long since 
decided it. Who will maintain that Christ's willing sacrifice of his life was 
immoral, because it robbed the State of a useful taxpayer?

No; a man's life is his own, and he has the right to destroy it as he will, 
unless he too egregiously intrude on the privileges of his neighbors.
But this is just the point. In modern times the whole community is one's 
neighbor, and one must not damage that. Very good; then there are pros and 
cons, and a balance to be struck.
In America the prohibition idea in all things is carried, mostly by 
hysterical newspapers, to a fanatical extreme. ``Senstion at any cost by 
sunday next'' is the equivalent in most editorial rooms of the alleged German 
order to capture Calais. Hence the dangers of anything and everything are 
celebrated dithyrambically by the Corybants of the press, and the only remedy 
is prohibition. In practice, this works well enough; for the law is not 
enforced against the householder who keeps a revolver forhis protection, but 
is a handy weapon against the gangster, and saves the police the trouble of 
proving felonious intent.
     But it is the idea that was wrong. Recently a man shot his family and 
himself with a rifle fitted with a Maxim silencer. Remedy, a bill to prohibit 
Maxim silencers! No perception that, if the man had not had a weapon at all, 
he would have strangled his family with his hands.
American reformers seem to have no idea, at any time or in any connection, 
that the only remedy for wrong is right; that moral education, self-control, 
good manners, will save the world; and that legislation is not merely a broken 
reed, but a suffocating vapor. Further, an excess of legislation defeats its 
own ends. It makes the whole population criminals, and turns them all into 
police and police spies. The moral health of such a people is ruined for ever; 
only revolution can save it.
Now in America the Harrison law makes it theoretically impossible for the lay-
man, difficult even for the physician, to obtain ``narcotic drugs.'' But every 
other Chinese laundry is a distributing centre for cocaine, morphia, and 
heroin. Negroes and street peddlers also do a roaring trade. Some people 
figure that one in every five people in Manhattan is addicted to one or other 
of these drugs. I can hardly believe this estimate, though the craving for 
amusement is maniacal among this people, who have so little care for art, 
literature, or music, who have, in short, none of the resources that the folk 
of other nations, in their own cultivated minds, possess. 

 IT WAS a very weary person, that hot Summer afternoon in 1909, who tramped 
into Logron;ti;o. Even the river seemed too lazy to flow, and stood about in 
pools, with its tongue hanging out, so to speak. The air shimmered softly; in 
the town the terraces fo the cafe;aa;s were thronged with people. They had 
nothing to do, and a grim determination to do it. They were sipping the rough 
wine of the Pyrenees, or the Riojo of the South well watered, or toying with 
bocks of pale beer. If any of them could have read Major-General O'Ryan's 
address to the American soldier, they would have supposed his mind to be 

Alcohol, whether you call it beer, wine, whisky, or by any other name, is a 
breeder of inefficiency. While it affects men differently, the results are the 
same, in that all affected by it cease for the time to be normal. Some become 
forgetful, others quarrelsome. Some become noisy, some get sick, some get 
sleepy, others have their passions greatly stimulated.

As for ourselves, we were on the march to Madrid. We were obliged to hurry. A
week, or a month, or a year at most, and we must leave Logron;ti;o in 
obedience to the trumpet call of duty.
However, we determined to forget it, for the time. We sat down, and exchanged
 views and experiences with the natives. From the fact that we were hyrrying, 
they adjudged us to be anarchists, and were rather relieved at our explanation 
that we were ``mad Englishmen.'' And we were all happy togetherl and I am 
still kicking myself for a fool that I ever went on to Madrid.
If one is at a dinner party in London or New York, one is plunged into an 
abyss of dullness. There is no subject of general interest; there is no wit; it 
is like waiting for a train. In London one overcomes one's environment by 
drinking a bottle of champagne as quickly as possible; in New York one piles 
in cocktails. The light wines and beers of Europe, taken in moderate measure, 
are no good; there is not time to be happy, so one must be excited instead. 
Dining alone, or with friends, as opposed to a party, one can be quite at ease 
with Burgundy or Bordeaux. One has all night to be happy, and one does not 
have to speed. But the regular New Yorker has not time even for a dinner 
party! He almost regrets the hour when his office closes. His brain is still 
busy with his plans. When he wants ``pleasure,'' he calculates that he can 
spare just half an hour for it. He has to pour the strongest liquors down his 
throat at the greatest possible rate.
Now imagine this man -- or this woman -- slightly hampered; the time available
e slightly curtailed. He can no longer waste ten minutes in obtaining 
``pleasure''; or he dare not drink openly on account of other people. Well, 
his remedy is simple; he can get immediate action out of cocaine. There is no 
smell; he can be as secret as any elder of the church can wish.

The mischief of civilizaiton is the intensive life, which demands intensive 
stimulation. Human nature requires pleasure; wholesome plesaures require 
leisure; we must choose between intoxication and the siesta. There are no 
cocaine fiends in Logron;ti;o.
Moreover, in the absence of a Climate, life demands a Conversation; we must 
choose between intoxication and cultivation of the mind. There are no drug-
fiends among people who are primarily pre-occupied with science and 
philosophy, art and literature. 

 HOWEVER, let us concede the prohibitionist claims. Let us admit the police 
contention that cocaine and the rest are used by criminals who would otherwise 
lack the nerve to operate; they also contend that the effects of the drug are 
so deadly that the cleverest thieves quickly become inefficient. Then for 
Heaven's sake establish depots where they can get free cocaine!
You cannot cure a drug fiend; you cannot make him a useful citizen. He never 
was a good citizen, or he would not have fallen into slavery. If you reform 
him temporarily, at vast expense, risk, and trouble, your whole work vanishes 
like morning mist when he meets his next temptation. The proper remedy is to 
let him gang his ain gait to the de'il. Instead of less drug, give him more 
drug, and be done with him. His fate will be a warning to his neighbors, and 
in a year or two people will have the sense to shun the danger. Those who have 
not, let them die, too, and save the state. Moral weaklings are a danger to 
society, in whatever line their failures lie. If they are so amiable as to 
kill themselves, it is a crime to interfere.
You will say that while these people are killing themselves they will do mis-
chief. Maybe; but they are doing it now.
Prohibition has created an underground traffic, as it always does; and the 
evils of this are immeasurable. Thousands of citizens are in league to defeat 
the law; are actually bribed by the law itself to do so, since theprofits of 
the illicit trade become enormous, and the closer the prohibition, the more 
unreasonably big they are. You can stamp out the use of silk handkerchiefs in 
this way: people say, ``All right: we'll use linen.'' But the ``cocaine 
fiend'' wants cocaine; and you can't put him off with Epsom salts. Moreover, 
his mind has lost all proportion; he will pay anything for his drug; he will 
never say, ``I can't afford it''; andif the price be high, he will steal, rob, 
murder to get it. Again I say: you cannot reform a drug fiend; all you do by 
preventing them from obtaining it is to create a class of subtle and dangerous 
criminals; and even when you have jailed them all, is any one any the better?
While such large profits (from one thousand to two thousand percent) are to be
made by secret dealers, it is to the interest of those dealers to make new 
victims. And the profits at present that it would be worth my while to go to 
London and back first class to smuggle no more cocaine than I could hide in 
the lining of my overcoat! All expenses paid, and a handsome sum in the bank 
aat the end of the trip! And for all the law, and the spies, and the rest of 
it, I could sell my stuff with very little risk in a single night in the 
Another point is this. Prohibition cannot be carried to its extreme. It is im-
possible, ultimately, to withhold drugs from doctors. Now doctors, more than 
any other single class, are drug fiends; and also, there are many who will 
traffic in drugs for the sake of money or power. If you possess a supply of 
the drug, you are the master, body and soul, of any person who needs it.
People do not understand that a drug, to its slave, is more valuable than gold 
or diamonds; a virtuous woman may be above rubies, but medical experience tells 
us that there is no virtuous woman in need of the drug who would not 
prostitute herself to a rag-picker for a single sniff.
And if it be really the case that one-fifth of the population takes some drug, 
then this long little, wrong little island is in for some very lively times.

The absurdity of the prohibitionist contention is shown by the experience of 
London and other European cities. In London any householder or apparently 
responsible person can buy any drug as easily as if it were cheese; and London 
is not full of raving maniacs, snuffing cocaine at every street corner, in the 
intervals of burglary, rape, arson, murder, malfeasance in office, and 
misprison of treason, as we are assured must be the case if a free people are 
kindly allowed to exercise a little freedom.
Or, if the prohibitionist contention be not absurd, it is a comment upon the 
moral level of the people of the United States which would have been 
righteously resented by the Gadarene swine after the devils had entered into 
I am not here concerned to protest on their behalf; alloowing the justice of 
the remark, I still say that prohibition is no cure. The cure is to give the 
people something to think about; to develop their minds; to fill them with 
ambitions beyond dollars; to set up a standard of achievement which is to be 
measured in terms of eternal realities; in a word, to educate them.
If this appear impossible, well and good; it is only another argument for 
encouraging them to take cocaine.

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