by Jerry Cornelius
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. – AL I:40
Grady Meets Aleister Crowley--and Gets His Magickal Motto!
“Oh, there you are! A line from one of your poems has been running around in my head and I can’t get it out,” exclaimed Aleister Crowley as he greeted the young Army Lieutenant named McMurtry. Crowley then recited, “I have heard the Mass of Mendes, Chaunted by a slitted tongue.” These lines were from Grady McMurtry’s poem entitled “Nadir,” which he had written two years earlier in September of 1941. He had recently sent a copy of this poem and others to Crowley for review and comment. Grady felt that it was a great privilege to submit his “poetry to Aleister Crowley for his critique. How many times in an incarnation would you have a chance to do that?” But he noted that “It was not an unmixed blessing. Sometimes his judgments could be severe. Getting a stinging letter from Aleister Crowley, especially when he had rejected your favorite poem and praised one you had thought was just off-hand, could be a sobering experience.” Although after hearing Crowley talk with praise about his poem Grady claimed, “I was high for weeks thinking about it – the greatest poet of the English language has a line in his head from one of my poems and he can’t get it out!” Years later, Grady McMurtry still had fond memories when he wrote that “this [the poem, “Nadir”] is one that A.C. really flipped over.”
The year was 1943, Grady had recently off-loaded from a troopship at Greenock, Scotland on his birthday, October 18th. His first meeting with Aleister Crowley took place a few days later on October 30th. One bright sunny morning he came to the apartment at 93 Jermyn Street (pronounced ‘german’), located just off Piccadilly Circus in London. In response to his knocking, the door slowly opened, and there stood the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley, who simply asked “Yes?”, to which Grady replied, “I am Lieutenant McMurtry.” Crowley’s response was, “Well, come in, dear chap!” During this visit Crowley gave Grady a copy of his booklet The Fun of the Fair, published the year before, and inscribed it: “To my brother Grady L. McMurtry – Most welcome visitor to 93 Jermyn St.” Crowley’s unpublished diary entry recording this meeting adds little, briefly stating that “McMurtry blew in!!!” According to Crowley’s diaries Grady would return the very next day. Grady visited Crowley again in the following month, on November 13th; Crowley wrote in his diary, “McMurtry till 11! Gawd! 7 hour talk.” The following day he wrote, “Get Magick for McM,” who was looking for a copy of this book. These meetings between Crowley and Grady were packed with magical talks and teachings.
Crowley loved playing chess, and Grady had fond memories of playing game after game as they smoked perique. Crowley also introduced him to the brandy snifter, and told the story that Crowley handed him his first brandy saying, “Let us act like the proper British gentlemen we are.” Grady believed that Crowley was simply trying to civilize this ‘American Barbarian.’ It was during one of these early meetings, while Grady was playing chess with the Great Beast, that Crowley expounded his theory of the game. Crowley believed that he could divine a person’s character simply by playing chess with him. Crowley felt that if one opened toward the right side, or the King’s pawn, this meant a fast, slashing and rather reckless attack. On the other hand, a left opening with the Queen’s pawn usually implied that one “is going in for Hyper-Modern theory where anything was possible,” and this meant a slower, more leisurely and intellectual type of game. Grady often jokingly stated “I tend to the right side, myself,” and it appears that Aleister Crowley liked his openings very much. According to Grady, it was while both were playing chess one morning that Crowley looked up and said, “You are obviously IXth Degree material.” That is how Grady received his official papers and became a IXth Degree member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, over a game of chess.
After this occurred, Grady expressed a belief that he needed a magical motto for his new role and asked Crowley for help in the matter. Crowley simply asked, “What is your Will?” Grady thought for a second and then answered, “… to unite that which is above with that which is below.” Crowley, lowering his head back to the chess board, simply replied that he would think on it. End of subject.
It was not long before Grady received a letter from Crowley, dated November 19, 1943, in which Crowley wrote, “… Ah! United. Yes: Sometimes I sat and thunk, and sometimes I just sat. But no nearer to your motto. Then a flash! Well, yes, I think it may do. Hymenaeus Alpha (= Aleph) (You know the Greek Alphabet & its values of course?) Hymenaeus, the Graeco-Roman God of Marriage; and Alpha (Aleph) with all its meanings – see Essay on Atu 0 in the Tarot. And the whole show adds up to 777. Good enough?” Hymenaeus Alpha was born.
During this period there are many brief entries regarding Grady McMurtry in Aleister Crowley’s diaries. On November 27th Crowley writes, “McM 4 1/2-10 1/2 talked without break. I must not do such ass-acts.” The following day simply states “Sleeping off McMurtry!” The first entry in Crowley’s diaries in which he refers to Grady as H.A. (short for Hymenaeus Alpha) occurs on December 7th. He writes “Bought Magick for H.A.”; Crowley had previously made a diary note to find a copy for him. There are other entries, but those recounted above document the beginning of Frater Hymenaeus Alpha.777 IX° OTO. Still, one might ask, who actually was the man, and what were his roots? How did Grady come to be knocking on the door of the Great Beast in 1943? So many questions and, as always, it’s best to go back to the very beginning, when Grady was born.
Grady’s Childhood and Ancestry
Grady McMurtry originally came from Oklahoma, which became the 46th State of the Union in 1907, just eleven years before his birth. The small town where he was born was named Big Cabin and no longer appears on most maps. He was born early in the morning of October 18, 1918 to Bee Ivery Puckett McMurtry who, after giving birth to a little boy, named him after his father. The child was christened Grady Louis McMurtry. He was a Libra, just like the two biggest influences in his life, Jack Parsons and Aleister Crowley.
The name McMurtry translates from the Scottish-Gaelic and means the “Son of the Sea Wind.” Some believe it’s of Viking origin. Grady’s earliest ancestors came from Scotland and settled in the Carolinas during colonial days. The Civil War was a bitter time for his family, and shortly after the war ended the McMurtrys decided to leave the Carolinas, climbing aboard an ox train heading west toward the Oregon Trail. When the family crossed the Mississippi River some of the older McMurtrys caught malaria from the mosquitoes. Still the family pushed on. They made it as far, as the Missouri-Arkansas-Oklahoma border before the malaria began to take its toll. Many McMurtrys died, including both of Grady’s great-grandparents, but they were survived by two young boys, George and Joe McMurtry. George McMurtry was Grady’s grandfather. The orphaned boys were taken in and raised by a local pioneer family who decided not to change their name. This is how the McMurtrys came to Oklahoma.
Grady claimed that his father was always a puzzle to him. He was of Scottish, Irish and Cherokee Indian extraction and “had the cunning of a street animal.” Grady further claimed he “was a medieval knight in the wrong age.” Grady painted vivid pictures of his father, and it’s best said that he had great respect for him. According to Grady, the family often ran out of money, and with his father being “an ex-con, in Oklahoma in the thirties, there was nothing to stop him from running out, but he didn’t.” His father stayed through the good times as well as the bad. Although he was a known petty thief and bootlegger, amongst other talents, Grady often said his father was a victim of the times.
One of Grady’s earliest memories of religion involves his paternal Grandfather George McMurtry, a “Holy Roller” preacher in the Cookson Hills of Oklahoma. Grady often spoke of a childhood incident that he called the “Smoke in the Rafters,” and wrote Crowley about it, recalling that his grandfather used to talk of “the wonderful prayer meetings we used to have on Brushy Mountain.” According to Grandfather McMurtry, “when the praying and dancing and the talking in tongues” was at its most fervent pitch he had, at times, “seen the presence of the Lord, which was like dark, rolling smoke just under the roof.” Despite such reports of glorious visions, it is fair to say that religion was not the theme of most of Grady’s childhood memories. Oklahoma was an extremely difficult state to grow up in during the early twenties, and the Great Depression of 1929 hit the area very hard. At this time Grady’s family lived in a tiny shack close to the railroad tracks. Grady wrote that he remembered this vividly because “every hour on the hour a passenger or a freight train came charging along … swish kuchuuung.” He also recalled risking his life, “going over to pick up coals for my mother so she could put them on the stove” to keep the family’s shack warm during the winter. These were the memories that Grady had of his childhood, and although this period of his life was tough, he would always say with a chuckle that they were good times.
Grady's Early Interests--Poetry, Science Fiction, & the Occult
We have no clear picture of when Grady first started to have an interest in science fiction and the occult. Grady has claimed that he realized he was at least anti-Christian when he was only thirteen years old. What prompted this revelation around 1931 is not really known. His family probably left Oklahoma when he was in his mid-teens, moving first to Kansas where he attended Valley Center High School. Grady wrote his very first poem around this time, entitled “Ballet Sol.” Although “undated” in all surviving typescripts, Grady recalled that it was written around 1936; that this was Grady’s earliest poem is supported by his clear memory of writing his second poem, a few years later. This first poem became one of his first published pieces, as “Ballet Sol” appeared alongside “The Parish Parson” (written circa 1940) in the July 1941 issue of Lou Goldstone’s publication Fantasia.
He moved to southern California sometime around 1938 where he attended Pasadena City College. He became heavily involved with the local Los Angeles science fiction club during this period. One of his best friends was Paul Friables who Grady recalled was “one of those genius types, a student of chemistry at Cal Tech.” Friables published a fanzine entitled Polaris, and one of its early contributors was none other than Ray Bradbury. Unfortunately Paul Friables died young of heart failure. Grady often told stories of a Halloween Party in 1938, attended by numerous science fiction types, at a place in Los Angeles called Cliff Cafeteria. He recalled that there was “this idiot running up and down on the other side of the table,” a long conference table in the center of the room. The person was trying very hard to hide and would crawl along the floor and jump up whenever some one approached, wearing a horrible Halloween mask and trying to scare everyone, especially the girls. No one was impressed and everyone was very annoyed with the young boy’s antics. After a while the mask came off and who did it turn out to be? None other than Ray Bradbury!
Grady’s second poem, “Wahlpurgisnacht,” was written during this period; it is dated “circa 1937/38” in typescript. The theme of this poem is the witch’s sabbath which takes place every April 30th on Brocken Mountain, the mountain where the devil, Mephistopheles, took Faust to sell his soul. When Grady’s poems Ballet Sol and The Parish Parson were first published, Grady was struck by the fact that the illustration and quote opposite his poems were from Bayard Taylor’s translation of Faust.
Grady socialized more and more with the Los Angeles science fiction crowd, and attended the inaugural meeting of a group calling itself the California Sci-Fi Society, founded by a young man named Forrest J. Ackerman. Grady remembers standing around in a crowded room, drunk out of his mind, when “this very handsome guy” came over and began talking with him about “science fiction, magick and poetry.” He learned that the gentleman’s name was Jack Parsons. Parsons asked where Grady lived, and Grady replied that he lived in Pasadena. It turned out that Jack also lived in Pasadena, on Terrace Drive, and Grady later recalled, “that’s how I wound up on Terrace Drive. And I became a part of the menage on Terrace Drive. And I discovered beautiful things like Wagner and Debussy and music and fantastic books by Poe.” Of more historical importance — it was there that he first learned of Aleister Crowley.
Grady and Jack Parsons
Grady’s diaries of this period state, “Tuesday, 17 December (1940): Invited down to Parsons home this evening for a general bull session with his partner in rocket research and Jack Williamson. Must have drunk a quart and a half of beer. Smith (Wilfred) couldn’t make it. Talked about rockets, witchcraft, etc.” On December 21st Grady records, “Down to Jack’s again tonight. Just he and I. Comparing our poetry and reading some good verse.” He saw Jack again on the 29th. Grady wrote the poem entitled “The Parish Parson” during this period, noting that it was “written in Pasadena about the time getting acquainted with Jack Parsons.” Some believe there is an obvious connection between the names. This poem, along with “Walpurgisnacht,” became the first two poems associated with what he would term his “Pan Cycle.” This “cycle” actually consisted of eleven poems that, according to Grady, all shared a mutual theme. He did not write the third poem belonging to this cycle until over a year later, in September of 1941. This poem entitled “Nadir,” was discussed earlier in this article. It was one of Crowley’s favorites. He loved the lines “I have heard the Mass of Mendes, Chaunted by a slitted tongue.” The last poem of this cycle was written in December of 1943 and is titled “Pangenetor.”
It didn’t take long for Grady and Jack Parsons to become very good friends. Often Grady and Jack would attend parties held in Hollywood by the California Rocket Society. Grady remembered that one day Jack turned to him and said, “Grady, there’s a guy over in Hollywood I think you’d like to meet.” Of course Grady agreed, and arrangements were made for him to finally meet Wilfred T. Smith. It turned out that Jack took him to the Agape Lodge of the OTO, then located at 1746 Winona Boulevard in Hollywood. Grady recalled attending his first Gnostic Mass that evening, with the Lodge Master Wilfred T. Smith presiding as the Priest, and Regina Kahl as High Priestess. He described her as “a big, square gal from Texas, built sort of like a rock.”
Agape Lodge Ordo Templi Orientis
That evening, Grady recalled, “I discovered I was a Thelemite. It was sort of funny. It came down like this: we were standing there, and we were upstairs … Regina had to welcome us. She was a teacher of ‘court voice’ at UCLA campus in the evening. And so, anyway, she welcomed us with the sweetest smile … I understand from people who lived at the house that she could be a real virago when she wanted to be. And some guy was playing Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral on the piano.” As an aside, Harry Hay, the founder of the modern gay movement, was at one time hired by Regina Kahl to play organ during the Gnostic Mass. Hay claims to have slipped “Barnacle Bill the Sailor” or “We Have No Bananas!” slowed to dirge tempo, into his contrapuntal accompaniment. One wonders what Grady would have thought of the Gnostic Mass if Hay was being mischievous on the night he visited Agape Lodge, but luckily this was not the case. Harry Hay had long stopped coming around the Lodge by the time Grady became involved, and the new organist was a young man named Louis Culling.
Grady continues with his story about that evening at Agape Lodge by stating, “I’m sitting here in this booth with my two girlfriends sitting across from me.” Two, the reader may ask? But all we can say is, why not? Grady reminisced about these two girlfriends: “One of them is Foxie and one of them is Tommie. They dressed identically alike. Foxie is a big, buxom blonde chick that would later be my wife, and Tommie is a small, short chick and she also has that beautiful skin that’s going to wrinkle at a very early age but in the meantime is very beautiful and really sexy, you know. I think this should go in a movie scenario. It was like this: see they were roommates. And they had these red jumpers over white blouses. If you can get the picture. And they were sitting there like dolls, one big and one small.” Years later Grady would write Aleister Crowley a letter that further describes these women: “One was small, brunette, vivacious, and empty headed; the other buxom, blonde and with some intelligence by scholastic standards. The brunette was choice #1, mostly because we were both interested in the OTO.”
Returning to Grady’s first evening at Agape Lodge, he recalled that the “temple was big enough so that you could have people on both sides of the altar.” and it appears that men sat on one side and the women on the other. Grady recalled that it “was just sort of like the way it came down.” He then states, anyway “we come down to the Collects. To the point where ‘sap of the world ash, wonder tree’ where all say it together. And I looked around to people sitting on my right and on my left, and I realized ‘These are the people I came down to meet. These are the people I came down to find.’ And that’s how I became a Thelemite.”
We have no clear references indicating which of Grady’s numerous undated poems were written during this period. It’s almost anyone’s guess. We do know that in 1940 he wrote such poems as Dream of the Ghoul and The Slaughter. But the world around young Grady was changing quickly and was in total turmoil. In May of 1940 the German Army invaded France and moved into the country swiftly, taking most of the Channel ports and cutting off the Allies, who were evacuated at Dunkirk. By June Mussolini had declared war on Great Britain and brought Italy into the conflict. On June 22nd France officially surrendered to Hitler and the advancing German army. Soon after this the now infamous Battle of Britain began, and under the leadership of Winston Churchill, England fought on alone against a German onslaught that sought to bomb England into submission. Aleister Crowley’s diaries in August of ’40 begin recording daily references to ‘air raids’ in and around London where he was living. By 1941 the United States was being drawn closer into the conflict and Congress voted on and passed the Lend-Lease aid package for England, which was also intended to help protect American shipping that had become the prey of German submarines. American supplies and troops were slowly being sent to England. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the U.S. would get into a full all-out war against Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Grady’s diaries record that he again took “Claire and Foxie over to Smith’s (Agape Lodge) to see the Mass of the Gnostic Catholic Thelemites.” He further wrote that, “They (meaning Claire and Foxie) were nearly scared to death. We talked over there for some time about it and related subjects.” Of what the two were scared about is not recorded. This took place on Sunday, January 5th 1941. The following Saturday (9th) Grady writes, “Went over to Smith’s place this evening and talked with him at some length on the OTO. Many things I like, some I don’t.” On Sunday, January 26th Grady again attended the Mass but this time he, Jack Parsons and Helen brought a friend, Paul Friables. Grady does write that he “took the sacrament for the first time” during this particular Mass.
World War II
1941 was a crazy year for Grady with many ups and downs. In February he found himself caught up in the spirit of American patriotism, like many thousands of other young men during this period of American history. He decided to join the Army, and shortly after boot camp Private Grady McMurtry claims he was “given a good assignment.” His poetry began to change around this period. While at Ft. Riley, Kansas, he began his boot camp or Basic Training Poems which are mostly undated. Only a few had titles, and some are quite funny. Of these poems, there are two versions of the basic training poem Mimeograft which survive in typescript. The older typed copy is signed ‘Pfc. Grady Louis McMurtry,’ while the later version antedates his promotion and is signed ‘Sgt. Grady Louis McMurtry.’
On February 11th Grady wrote a poem which he entitled “Notes on a City.” Across the Atlantic five days later, Karl Germer (Frater Saturnus), the Grand Treasurer General of the OTO, was released by the Nazis from a concentration camp. Crowley’s diaries simply say, “Saturnus was liberated,” and Crowley wrote Germer on March 23rd: “I am overwhelmed with joy to hear that you are alive and well.” Soon afterwards Germer would apply for an American visa, and on April 9th he moved to New York City. On April 28th Grady wrote the poem “The Voyage Home.” The following month Crowley sent Germer another letter, dated May 5th, 1941, in which Germer was officially appointed Crowley’s personal representative in the United States of America.
Sometime during this period of 1941 Grady broke up with the brunette, Tommie, his #1 choice whom like himself, had a strong interest in the OTO. What to do next? In Grady’s own words, “After that I was quite ready for something different. The blonde having been kept informed by the brunette of the idiosyncrasies of McMurtry, the Terrible, and still professing eternal love, etc, I decided to try that.” So in early June he and Claire “Foxie” Halleck Palmer, the big buxom blonde, choice #2, decided to get married! There is no record of their honeymoon, or even whether they had one. We do know that on June 13th, 1941, Grady Louis McMurtry along with his new wife, Claire “Foxie” McMurtry took Minerval and First Degree Initiation into the Ordo Templi Orientis at the Agape Lodge. It was on this day that Grady received his first copy of The Book of the Law, but unfortunately he would lose it during the campaign in Europe years later while fighting the Nazis.
Marriage seems to have made Grady much more prolific with his poetry. There are at least fifteen poems from this period. On December 6th Grady penned the poem “Requiem.” On the very next day, December 7th, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in a sneak attack at dawn, and the United States found itself at war in the Pacific. Regarding this event Grady simply wrote, “I remember the 40’s only too vividly. Pearl Harbor and instant paranoia.” On the same day, December 7th, Grady wrote the poem “Now I Know,” which ironically has nothing to do with the Japanese attack. Although already in uniform, Grady was not sent to the Pacific theater to fight the Japanese. The gods or Secret Chiefs had other things in store for McMurtry. He was destined for England to meet Aleister Crowley. Shortly afterwards Hitler decided to declare war on the United States. We officially became involved in Europe as well as the Pacific.
Lieutenant McMurtry, Warrior Troubadour
The following year, in June of 1942, Grady received his military orders and discovered that he was being sent to Officers Candidate School for further training. Things then began to move really fast: by September 1942 he not only received his army commission but he and Foxie had divorced. The marriage had lasted about a year. But did this sour Grady to marriage? No way. It appears that by the end of the year he was married again to his second wife, Marjorie Fox, who like his previous wife carried the nickname “Foxie.” Also in December of 1942 Grady was commissioned as a lieutenant and received his first official command of a company. He was very proud. One of his more interesting poems on military themes was written in May of 1943, entitled “Creed of the Commando.” It gives a unique flavor to the type of training Grady was undergoing, but unfortunately by July ’43 he lost his command, albeit “through no fault of my own,” as he would later state. True to Army logic, he was soon promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and by September received his new orders, being sent to Europe to fight the Nazis. From January ’42 to September ’43 Grady hacked out at least twenty-one dated poems and no doubt many others that are undated. His love for poetry was in full bloom.
September 1943 found Grady McMurtry embarking by troop ship for Camp Kilmer in New York. Shortly before leaving, Wilfred T. Smith gave him Karl Germer’s address so that he could look up Germer in New York. It was here that Grady was given Aleister Crowley’s address at 93 Jermyn Street in London. During this visit he claimed that the Germers “took me to a Russian restaurant where I had borscht, which I thought was very far-out.” He further stated that Karl and Sascha got along with him very well and he believed they enjoyed his presence. After the visit he once again boarded a troop ship bound for England.
He arrived just south of Stow, England, at that time a processing center for the military. Shortly afterwards he found himself being shipped to Liverpool. Here he “spent a couple of weeks bumming around” until he got orders sending him to East Anglia, where he was put on a troop carrier bound for Scotland.
Thus our story comes full circle, with the young Lieutenant Grady Louis McMurtry being off-loaded from a troopship at Greenock, Scotland in October of 1943, just before his first visit to Aleister Crowley. When asked, “How could a Company Commander in the Invasion of Normandy have also been an associate of Aleister Crowley in London in the 40’s?”, Grady simply replied with his typical wit that once, after he had just been balled by this little Japanese prostitute near Piccadilly Circus, both smoking cigarettes, he asked that typical stupid question, “How did a nice girl like you get mixed up in a lousy racket like this?” Her reply was, “Oh, just lucky, I guess!” This is how Grady would often explain how he managed to meet the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley, “Just lucky, I guess!”
Chess with the Great Beast
During one of his first visits to 93 Jermyn Street, while both were playing chess, Crowley confided to Grady the problems he was having with the publication of The Book of Thoth. It appeared that right now the printers had the paper and red Moroccan leather for the binding, but with the rescheduling of other jobs Crowley feared they would no longer have the materials in stock when his book was ready to go to press, and that it would be postponed. Crowley didn’t want that. He asked Grady for 50 pouds ($200 American at that time) in a desperate plan to give the publishers the final payment, hoping that it might convince them to produce his book first. Grady said he’d think about it. Back at his base in East Anglia Grady thought really hard about the money. He later said that, after all, “I was just a poor kid from Oklahoma; I happened to have gotten to the rank of First Lieutenant, but I had no bank account, no family money; the only money I had was my monthly paycheck. I’d been paid about that time, and as I looked at the money in my hand I thought, ‘I wonder if I went back to the paymaster and asked him if I could draw next month’s salary, if he would give it to me.’ So no sooner thought than done, and I went, and the guy says, ‘Sure.’ He gives me next month’s salary. So I put the two together and came up with $200, which is fifty pounds. So I went down to the post office and wired the money to Crowley. Much to my delight, about a week later I received a letter from him. In the envelope was a big, one-page receipt.”
The receipt was an officially signed and sealed letter dated December 1, 1943, in which Crowley promised to repay Grady later. For the present, however, Grady was busted, flat broke. He decided to write his wife, Marjorie, a letter asking for extra money since he had given his last penny to Crowley. According to Grady she maintained “the Army would take care of me and what did I need money for? To burn while crossing the Channel on the Invasion, I suppose. I kissed that $200 good-bye, since anyone who gave A.C. money and expected it back had a hole in his head, as I’m sure you know.” He was correct, Crowley never did give the money back, but 25 years later Grady would send a xerox copy of this letter from Crowley to Gerald Yorke in England in an attempt to prove ownership rights to publish The Thoth Tarot Cards. He then released the cards through Llewellyn Publications in 1970 — but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
It was during another visit while again playing chess that Crowley looked up at Grady and asked, “What number do I want?” He was referring to The Book of Thoth, which was just coming off the press. Grady recalled “I knew what he meant; but at the time I really had not become a student of gematria, and numbers in that sense were rather meaningless to me.” Crowley then began to suggest certain numbers to Grady who “sat there looking rather blank — playing the perfect straight guy.” Crowley “started numbering numbers, and after he’d gone through quite a few of them, I realized that this had to stop before he ran out, so I just reached frantically out and said ‘That one! I’ll take that one,’ and it was 56.” Later when the actual book arrived Grady immediately noticed that Aleister Crowley had sent him number 10 and not 56. He wrote inquiring why and Crowley’s reply was simply, “I chose the number ten for Jupiter – for Luck.” Grady later said “and then when you stop and think — if you were the world’s greatest Magician, and you had a young friend who was lost in the wars, plying the extremely unlikely trade of explosive ordnance expert, and trying to survive — and you wanted to do him a favor and wish him luck — what would be better than to hand him Jupiter, the great God of Luck?” He carried the book with him throughout the war.
Grady had many more opportunities to visit Crowley and he told many interesting tales of these visits over the years. In one such story he described how he was again playing chess, drinking brandy and smoking perique. In the background one could hear the German bombers overhead, with the British anti-aircraft guns firing over Trafalger Square trying to shoot them down. After awhile Crowley excused himself and disappeared into the kitchen to make more tea. Grady remarked, “How many times in an incarnation would you have a chance to check out Aleister Crowley’s library?” He noticed one book in particular whose cover was obviously artificial, and as it turned out, Crowley had actually painted a picture on it. At this point Crowley returned with a tea tray, noticed Grady examining the book, and asked him what he thought. Did he like the painting? Grady’s reply was simply, “Not much!” Wrong answer, Crowley was not amused. He walked over and stood directly over Grady and gave him a finger-wagging lecture, “the substance of which was that I was an ignoramus who wouldn’t appreciate a good painting if I saw one!” Grady admitted that “unfortunately he was right, but at the time I really didn’t appreciate it all that much.” There are many more great stories, like the one where he ventured the observation that some of the Great Wild Beast’s actions produced results that probably “didn’t turn out the way you expected.” He recalled that Crowley slowly looked up from the chess table with a twinkle in his eye that suggested he knew exactly what Grady was implying, and said “Well, you have to do what seems right at the time!” He then lowered his head and made his next move. The reply makes perfect sense.
On another occasion, after Crowley excused himself and left Grady alone in the room, Grady again looked around to see what he might explore in Crowley’s library. One book on the shelf caught his attention because it was very strange looking. It had no title on the spine, being simply black, oblong and rather thick. Curious, he pulled it from the shelf and returned to his chair to examine it more closely, wondering as he opened it, “What kind of book is this?” He recalled that there were no printing or words, but rather four square tablets with strange letters upon them, which turned out to be Enochian. He was just about to rub his fingers across the letters to determine if they were printed or painted when Crowley returned from the kitchen carrying a tea tray. Seeing young McMurtry with the book in his hand, Crowley screamed at the top of his voice, “DON’T TOUCH THAT!” Grady looked up, wide eyed and surprised, and closed the book “gently” and slowly handed it to Crowley, who returned it to the library shelf, saying quietly, “You have no idea what forces you could have set in motion!” This incident was never further explained, nor did Crowley ever bring it up again.
Pre-D-Day Visits with Crowley
As previously discussed, Grady was a Company Commander between ’42 and June of ’43. This experience qualified him to receive his second command in December of 1943, when he was stationed just fifty miles outside London at Bury St. Edmunds in East Anglia (which literally translates as the ‘Land of the Angels’). Grady wrote that “as a Company Commander of a unit destined for the Normandy Invasion I was a very busy man, grabbing the company jeep & buzzing into London (at the time under bombardment with the 2nd, or ‘Baby’ Blitz of London by the Luftwaffe) to see Crowley was a hazardous occupation I could not indulge in, only occasionally.” When he did, he would park the jeep near the “Tube,” or subway, and take the underground to Piccadilly Circus. During the seven months preceding the invasion of Normandy (June 6th, 1944), Crowley recorded no less than a dozen visits from Grady McMurtry in his diaries. We also have at least five poems that Grady wrote during this period (although there are probably others), poems with titles such as “Oblivion,” “Pangenetor,” “A Tale Told at Bedtime,” “The Seeker” and “Convoy Rolling.”
Grady’s command post in East Anglia was surrounded by B-17 bases. He claimed it “was fantastic,” that in the pre-dawn darkness “you could hear them revving up as the armorers loaded the bomb bays and the mechanics kept checking their engines. Then they would start to take off.” As one can imagine, the sound was deafening, but Grady wrote that “it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.” In 1983 he wrote to me that this was the one ritual that he observed every day while he was writing the poem “Pangenetor”: “I would walk out to the white wooden fence behind the Parsonage that was my CP, look east, & watch them. They took off singly and circled heavy laden, a B-17 loaded is as heavy as a pregnant goose.” He added, “What was not beautiful was when they came home at night. They came in about sunset ‘Like homing dragons dark against the West’ (a quote from A Wine Of Wizardry by George Sterling). But these dragons had been had. You could hear the roar of the engines easy enough for they were coming in low at the end of a long glide path from Germany to save fuel. The bombers never broke formation, this is something the American soldier learned in the Civil War, ‘never break your discipline,’ & you could count the empty spaces. That one was gone, & that one was gone. But even coming into the landing pattern, you think air-traffic control is hazardous today, try landing a squadron of heavy bombers low on fuel & full of exhausted crews with the light failing, their crossed .50 calibers still covering each other. And then came the stragglers. That was not so pretty. These guys had to drop out & the others had to let them go to preserve formation discipline. One has a landing gear dangling where the hydraulics had been shot away. He’ll land on the grass & not on the runway. And that one with 2 red Very Pistol roman candle signals out the left waist gun position (wounded aboard … have ambulance stand by).” Grady recalled that “during all this I was writing ‘Pangenetor.'”
According to Grady, “Pangenetor” was written “in imitation of Crowley’s Hymn to Pan” and was the last of eleven poems written for his Pan Cycle; he finished it on December 13, 1943. It might be best to quote at length what Grady wrote to me regarding this poem, since it gives a unique flavor of what he was attempting to achieve. He wrote: “this is not the ‘raving, ripping’ Pan of Crowley’s Hymn to Pan. This is a mellow, more mature, well aged? Pan. Fond of his children, but happy to be rid of them on occasion. There is one sobering afterthought. As you will notice I make a great deal of the ‘Wine’ of Pan, thinking in Alchemical terms. Many years later in the 50’s e.v. while I was active in Korea during the Korean War I sent it to Robert Graves on Majorca. I have 3 letters from Mr. Graves from that period. All are extremely interesting. Especially the one where he burst my ‘Wine’ balloon by pointing out, rather offhand, that, ‘Pan was a beer drinker.’ Otherwise he said he rather liked the poem. Oh well. Back to the drawing board. Or maybe Mr. Graves was speaking as a historian at the moment, & not as a Troubadour Poet.”
If one wonders what Grady was reading during this period that might have further inspired him, it was a recently published sci-fi paperback titled The Book of Ptath by A. E. Van Vogt. Grady remembers picking it up on the troop ship coming across the Atlantic. He must have enjoyed it very much, as he remembered its title after all those years.
On December 18th we know that Grady visited Crowley from three in the afternoon till almost ten thirty at night. Crowley’s diaries record the visit, followed by the word, “instructions.” The next day Grady returned again, and Crowley noted, “All day McM.”
Christmas 1943 was cold, one of those typically snowy English winter days which found Grady at Crowley’s apartment at 93 Jermyn Street enjoying a nice dinner. Afterwards, as they were sitting, talking and playing chess, there came “a raucous noise at the door.” Crowley looked up, saying, “I wonder what in the world that is?” He slowly got up out of his chair and walked toward the door. As he opened it he found four young English boys engaging in the British festivity of caroling on Christmas Day. It is the custom to continue caroling until one is given money for their services. Crowley, not amused, did what most of us have probably always wanted to do. He slammed the door in their faces, screaming at the top of his lungs, “To the lions with them! To the lions with them!” Not surprisingly, that day the kids went away without being paid. Grady said, “That’s the Aleister Crowley I knew.”
It is not known exactly when but some time toward the end of 1943 Grady wrote an essay entitled “The Dynamics of Equilibrium.” Scribbled across a copy in Grady’s own handwriting is the following: “To illustrate wherein the economics whereby man lives affect his aspiration to godhead and how these economics may be altered under certain conditions to encourage instead of hampering this aspiration.” We know that Grady gave a copy of this essay to Aleister Crowley although we don’t know his views after reading it. Some claim a hint might be found in the penned verses found at the bottom of Crowley’s copy, which reads: “Do show me your Velasquez; I’m blinder than a bat. My wooden leg is very stiff, so please to massage that! The odontologist may try the best of all adventures. And cure his face-ache cleverly by polishing his dentures!” Of course these verses might have nothing to do with Grady’s essay.
Another essay written by Grady but unfortunately undated is entitled “Clear Crowley’s Name Campaign.” It begins by stating its policy, “To clear Crowley’s name of the slander instigated by bigoted journalists and propagated by the sensational press.” Crowley was still alive when Grady penned this essay, so it is believed to date from around this period.
The new year 1944 arrived and Grady found himself with less and less spare time to visit Aleister Crowley. We do know from Crowley’s diaries that McMurtry visited for almost four and a half hours on January 8. On the tenth he sent Crowley cigars, but very little is recorded over the next few months; presumably Grady was preparing his troops for the invasion at Normandy, although letters were exchanged between the two. One interesting letter from Crowley dated March 15th is worth quoting, because Crowley writes, “I don’t like the sound of the name Grady: it calls up the hideous spectre of Kipling! Louis is fine: a ‘Lewis’ is any boy whose father is or was a Master Mason.” Many of Crowley’s future letters are addressed to ‘Louis’ rather than to ‘Grady,’ and if one ever wonders why, possibly the explanation which Crowley gave will be sufficient. Crowley simply didn’t like the name Grady! On April 2 Crowley’s diary records, “McMurtry blew in at 5:30! He turned in his diary to me — they are tabu for the duration. Also — no more correspondence chess across Pond! That 2nd Front does seem nearer!”
That April Lt. Grady McMurtry submitted a poem/song written a few years earlier in 1942 to the Society of American Military Engineers for possible publication in their magazine, The Military Engineer. The “song” was entitled “The Combat Engineer” and was published in the March 1944 issue (Vol. XXXVI No. 221). Soon after the editor, Col. J. Franklin Bell, wrote Grady a rather nice letter dated March 6, 1944, in which he states, “I am writing to express our high appreciation of your co-operation in preparing the song entitled The Combat Engineer which appears in the current issue of The Military Engineer, and to express the hope that its display is entirely to your liking.” This “song” appears in RED FLAME No. 1 as a poem, without the music.
During this period a German bomb exploded in the back yard of 93 Jermyn Street, blowing out the windows in Crowley’s bedroom and doing considerable damage. In explaining this incident to Grady, Crowley remarked that “[i]f I had been home, I would have been killed.” That the bombs were coming so close to home obviously began to shake Crowley’s nerves, something that Grady understood very well, remarking that, “I can report with great authenticity that being next to a bomb going off does something to you. What it does mostly is make your nerves a lot more frangible.” So on April 8, 1944, after months of German bombing, Crowley finally decided that he needed “more quiet” and left London for the countryside. “Can’t say I blame him,” said Grady. “I thought it was dumb enough to stay in London to begin with; but I didn’t tell him that.” Crowley took a small room at the Bell Inn, in Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire, which Crowley described as “a most delightful, really old, inn, big open fire, food incredibly good. But nothing to do, and no one to talk to.” He was given room No. 11 which according to one of Crowley’s biographers, seemingly pleased him since it was the number of the Qliphoth, or rather the infernal sphere on the Tree of Life.
Even though the British had taken down every single road sign in case of a German invasion, Grady McMurtry had little trouble finding the Bell Inn. This meeting was recorded in Crowley’s diary on May 27th, 1944, only eleven days before the Normandy invasion: “HA blew in. No 20 pounds on June 1st! He is on the point of leaving for the 2nd Front.” Grady had been religiously giving Crowley 20 pounds on the first of each month, but now it became obvious that Grady knew something was up and possibly told Crowley, since his diary entry implies knowledge of the impending “2nd Front.” Crowley ends this diary entry with, “As he (Grady) left, I saw and saluted new moon perfectly clear!” Grady has also written about this meeting and it is worth quoting at length.
Grady recalled that “[n]aturally I was in uniform. Not only was there a war on, but I had taken the morning off from my duties as Company Commander to grab the company jeep and go over and see Crowley. I walked in to the desk and asked the clerk how I could find Mr. Crowley. He said, ‘Oh, right up those stairs there, (on the right), down the corridor to the left, and it’s room number so and so (which I have forgotten)’ So I go pounding up the stairs ‘with me combat boots on,’ found the door (on the right), and pound on it. I heard some unintelligible sound, so I pounded again. This time I heard a voice saying very distinctly, ‘Who is it?’ Since I was talking to a piece of wood, the door, and there seemed to be some problem of communication, I said very loudly ‘LIEUTENANT McMURTRY.’ The door opened and there was Crowley. He took one look at me and said, ‘Oh, there you are, dear chap. Come right on in.’ Then he paused, looked puzzled for a second, and said, ‘That’s strange. When I was taking the I Ching this morning it said that I would be meeting a military man.’ I walked in … I forgot exactly what we talked about, but I do remember that it was a happy reunion and a heart-warming experience. Crowley could be a wonderful person when he wanted to be.”
A few days later, on June 1, Crowley writes in his diary, “No 20 pounds from McM,” as if he had forgotten Grady’s previous comments on May 27th that the money would be late. Grady’s 20 pounds arrived on the fourth, and Crowley seemed happy. Two days later, on June 6th, 1944, the 2nd front finally arrived: D-Day. The landing at Normandy, the Allied invasion of the continent against Hitler’s Nazi Germany, had begun. It was directed by Gen. Eisenhower and was called Operation Overlord. Grady wrote that he didn’t know that the invasion was to be at Normandy until it happened, and that, “fortunately, neither did Hitler. He thought we were coming into Calais. This is why he withheld the armored units from Rommel until it was too late. By the time we were established on the beach-head there was no way he could stop us.” Grady’s command was not one of the first off-loaded on the crucial day of June 6. Instead, his company was to go ashore on D+10, or June 15. However, during the night his troopship went aground on the sands directly offshore. Rather than remain a sitting target for the German artillery, at 2 a.m. on D+11 Grady’s company was off-loaded onto the beachhead at Normandy.
Grady remembered that night vividly: “[T]he British anti-aircraft rockets on our left being fired in silver streaks going up right to left & sparkling like silver fireflies against the German bombers we could hear revving their engines upstairs … the great purple square mouth of the ship behind us with starlight sprinkling the dark tides rolling in … [W]e turned right. St. Mere Eglise was just over the rise but we wouldn’t see the bullet-riddled parachutes of 101 ABN or the broken and twisted gliders until the sun rose. Right now we had to negotiate the beach.” Grady recalled that he gave very specific orders to his command vehicle driver to “[f]ollow the truck in front of you.” The idea was to not break convoy discipline by going off to either side, which could mean drifting into uncleared mine fields on the right, or running into oncoming traffic being off-loaded from other ships on the left.
Grady claimed that he was “almost killed on two separate occasions during the D-Day Operations.” The first time was shortly after landing on the beach at Normandy, where his 3/4 ton command vehicle was almost crushed by a huge, incoming landing craft when his vehicle drifted into the wrong section of the beach. Grady said this huge landing craft came out of nowhere in the dark and missed him by less than two feet as it came ashore. It would have smashed his command vehicle “like a tin can.” It happened so fast, it was scary — Grady’s comment was, “Holy Horus!” This near miss was not Grady’s fault, but rather that of the young, scared driver of his command vehicle. The kid was worried about the mine field and drifted too far left. Luckily Grady survived.
After coming ashore his immediate job was to set up as the Ammo Supply Officer for a squadron of P-47 fighter-bombers, which Grady called the “Panzer Dusters.” These bombers were taking off regularly from Strip 3 near the beach at Normandy and were bombing the town of St. Lo into submission. Grady recalled that so many explosives were going off that “we could feel the earth shivering from St. Lo to the sea thru the soles of our combat boots as the rolling concussion of the bombardment pulverized the place into the red brick rubble.” Later he would drive his 1st Bomb supply convoy through St. Lo and see exactly what damage was done. It was not a pretty sight. It was around this time that Lt. McMurtry was almost killed the second time. It was a beautiful sunny French day as he and a sergeant were wandering around a German pillbox along Normandy beach. This particular day he was on EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) when he came upon this gigantic crater. At the bottom was a bomb. A big bomb. So they pulled their bomb service trailer next to the crater and the sergeant climbed down into it and began trying to set a detonation for the bomb. Grady stood up at the rim watching. After a few seconds the sergeant made this frantic, mad dash up out of the crater and ran for the German pillbox, diving into the corner head first as he held onto his helmet. Grady, watching, immediately realized something was wrong and did likewise. He had no sooner slapped his hands over his ears when “WHUMP!” and the “pillbox bounced like it had been hit by an incoming salvo from the U.S.S. Missouri.” He further remarked that “[i]t was enough to shake your chakras. In fact it did.” At the exact moment of impact Grady’s butt “was no more than 25 paces from the center of the molecular disruption,” and his butt was thumped in a fashion, as he puts it, “usually reserved for the initiatory practices of certain cults.” After he had gotten up, picked up his helmet, shook off the beach sand and then slapped both hands against his head in an attempt to determine if he still had eardrums, he asked, “What the hell happened?” The smiling sergeant simply replied, “I cut the fuse too short.” Grady claims he learned an important lesson that day: “Never place your life in the hands of an idiot.”
Grady McMurtry--Future Caliph
We mentioned previously that Aleister Crowley had bought Grady a copy of Magick and that he mentions such briefly in his diaries on December 7th, 1943. Shortly after D-Day, when all was calm and the beachhead was secured, Grady found himself sitting “in a long green Army tent at a green fold-out camp table on a green fold-out Army camp chair not far from those red clay graves of the American Army cemetery on the bluffs overlooking Normandy Beachhead … you would not believe those D-Day tanks … instant rusted dinosaurs” Grady says he was “thoughtfully reading my Magick in Theory & Practice … which I usually kept stashed in my long green D-Day footlocker, when this Captain walked in & said, ‘Hey, Mac, what’cha reading there?’ I looked up at him, looked at the green ceiling of the tent, looked back down at my MT&P & knew there was absolutely no way in this universe or any other (that) I was going to explain Aleister Crowley to this guy who had been a tank commander in the Hell on Wheels Armored Division & (who) was going back home to be a banker in N.Y.C., so I looked back up at him & said, ‘I’m studying to be a Pagan Priest.’ He snorted & walked away.”
On Wednesday, the 28th of June, Aleister Crowley wrote in his diary that about 1:48 a.m. he saw an “Apparition of Fra H.A. In oval of dim light. Dark Blue clothes, standing at attention. Greeting returned, before I finished mine.” There is no indication in his diaries of Crowley attempting to figure out what this meant, but it is believed to have had a great impact on Crowley, who soon begins looking toward Grady as a possible O.H.O. or successor to the OTO leadership in the future. A few days later, on the 30th, Crowley writes, “Fra H.A. wrote from Normandy!” and immediately wrote a letter in reply. The letter begins with Crowley saying, “I can’t tell you how glad I was to hear from you this A.M. I was, naturally, anxious to know that you were safely across.”
There is an interview recorded before the death of Grady McMurtry which later appeared in an issue of The Magical Link (Vol. VI, No.2, December 1986) in which Grady recalled that “when I was in Normandy, I wrote a poem Normandy in June. Then by the time we got to Chartres, I had gotten down off the adrenaline high of the invasion and I wrote a poem called The Cynic which was a sort of a real downer trip … but Crowley liked it. He thought it brought in some real insights. And then in the battle of northern France, In September, and so forth … this was a moving war … we were moving fast. And so I would write short fragments of poetry.”
To put Grady’s poetry into perspective, he wrote “The Cynic” on August 17th. Five days later Crowley wrote a letter to Grady, dated August 22nd 1944. Grady stated that this was “the 1st of the Caliphate letters.” Crowley writes, “I have been anxious at not hearing from you. I hope all is well, and that you have received your copy of The Book of Thoth, unless it was impounded to drop on a couple of retreating German divisions; if so, I have several more that I could send you for this purpose … I was going to write you an official letter about your position in the Order; but it would have to be drafted carefully, so I will try to give you the gist of it in a few simple but well chosen words. You are the only man from the U.S.A. of the younger generation who has been properly blooded, and you know me personally with a remarkable degree of intimacy considering the shortness of our association. You are also quite the most serious and intelligent of the younger lot. This singles you out as the proper man to take charge of affairs when the time is ripe.”
According to Grady’s original typed copy, he wrote the poem “Normandy in June” on September 14th, 1944. A few weeks later the “official letter” Crowley had promised arrived, dealing with Grady’s position in the Order.” It is dated September 28th, 1944, and in it Crowley frankly states that “I hope you will prefer my plan for your career as my Fidus Achates. alter ego, Caliph, & so on.” During this period Grady was extremely busy, as Belgium was liberated from the Nazis by the United States Army in September 1944.
The Germans were now in retreat. Grady had survived the Normandy Invasion as well as the battle for northern France. Even in the midst of the war along the Belgian front he managed to reply to Crowley’s letter of September 28, writing to Crowley on November 8 to ask for more details on the Caliphate. Crowley replied from his home at the Bell Inn on November 21st; his diaries record that he dealt with “IX & Caliphate.” Crowley wrote Grady: “The Caliphate. You must realize that no matter how closely we may see eye-to-eye on any objective subject, I have to think on a totally different premisses where the Order is concerned. One of the (startling few) commands given to me was this: ‘Trust not a stranger: fail not of an heir.’ This has been the very devil for me. Fr. Saturnus is of course the natural Caliph; but there are many details concerning the actual policy or working which hit his blind spots. In any case, he can only be a stopgap, because of his age; I have to look for his successor. It has been Hell; so many have come up with amazing promise, only to go on the rocks … I do not think of you as lying on a grassy hillside with a lot of dear sweet lovely wooly lambs, capering to your flute! On the contrary. Your actual life, or ‘blooding’, is the sort of initiation which I regard as the first essential for a Caliph. (Saturnus) had lots of it: Iron + twice wounded: rose from the ranks to 1st Lieut — our major. For — say 20 years hence the Outer Head of the Order must, amongst other things, have had the experience of war as it is in actual fact to-day.” Crowley then goes on to say that, “1965 e.v. should be a critical period in the development of the Child Horus!”
Years later Grady would explain that this letter obviously showed that Crowley “could foresee the future,” and basically that’s why “I am Caliph. Not merely because I am a poet … I belong to that vanishing breed known as the ‘Warrior-troubadour’ … when the battle is over you take off your piss pot (which is what we call our helmet) and sit down in your muddy combat boots and write a poem about it (see my Normandy in June for an example), but also because I know what it is like to ‘go in,’ as we say … basically, I am Caliph because I am a soldier: First, last and always.” He further explained that he has often been misunderstood by the “weak sisters,” expressing to them that he was not their “Groovy Guru … who is here to perform while you sit around and are entertained. I am here to find that iron core of dedicated Thelemites …” In a letter to a friend in 1973 Grady attempted to further elucidate the Caliphate as it was explained to him by Aleister Crowley. He wrote that Crowley had told him “Your actual life, or ‘blooding’ is the sort of initiation which I (i.e. Crowley) regard as the first essential for a Caliph …” Grady then addresses a comment made by his friend, remarking that “exposure to drugs will, as you point out, accelerate one’s vibrations. So will prolonged exposure to violence, and I have walked away from 6 battlefields on 2 continents.” No one can deny that Grady McMurtry went through the proper ‘blooding’ — he had his soul torn on the battlefields in preparation for the ordeals which Aleister Crowley foresaw in his future.
But let us now reflect on the three poems we know Grady wrote during this period. According to Grady’s own typed copies of the poems, “The Cynic” (9/17/44) was written first; “In September” (9/30/44) came next, followed a few weeks later by “Normandy in June” (10/14/44). There is however evidence that Grady wrote “Normandy in June “first; perhaps it was not typed until mid-September. The original — written on Normandy beach — might have been only scribbled notes, which is understandable considering that there was an invasion going on. We know that Grady sent copies of these poems to Aleister Crowley to critique, as Crowley’s reply (dated November 13th, 1944) discusses them: “As I expected, my judgement about your poems is probably the exact opposite of yours. The one into which you put so much hard work I just don’t like. The hard work is apparent. The “Normandy in June” is not bad; but it is not really a poem. There is no ecstasy in it, or coming out of it. It seems to me to be just a straightforward description of things observed. In other words, you did not do any magical work on it. But for “The Cynic” I have nothing but unqualified praise. As you say, it was spur-of-the-moment thing, and I am absolutely convinced that all first class poetry is just exactly that. I said so in the Preface to The City of God.” Crowley is perhaps referring to his remark that “[t]he reception of a poem, being a ritual Magical initiation, suffers no interruption.” Or as he remarked to Grady, it is a spur-of-the-moment thing. Grady always liked to quote another passage in The City of God: “Poetry is the geyser of the Unconscious” — the opening line of the Preface. Both serve to underscore his meaning.
Ordnance Class and Magickal Instruction
In early December of 1944 Grady’s command was at one of those in-between stages, commonly called a lull in the battle, preparing for an all-out assault against the German Army along the Rhine. It was a very bad, cold and snowy winter. A dense fog slowly drifted throughout the Ardennes Forest in Belgium. You couldn’t see fifty feet in any direction. Everyone believed the Germans were in total retreat. While reading the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes, Grady found a notice for a special course in Explosive Ordnance in England that was being offered to any Ammunition Supply Officer who wanted to sign up. Grady has jokingly written that he decided to take the course because he felt that “[i]t would be interesting to find out something about what I was doing”; but more importantly, “Crowley was in England,” and that is what went through Grady’s mind as he read the newspaper. It was a great opportunity, so he signed up for the course and climbed aboard a small, antique four-passenger airplane out of Brussels airport bound for England. Before long he landed in Croydon, and by truck, bus and trolley he came to the train which would finally take him to his destination, Leicester.
Grady managed to get a day off before the class officially began and headed off for a visit to Aleister Crowley at the Bell Inn. Crowley’s own diaries record that on Sunday December 10th “HA dashed in!!! Whole bloody day enquiring, instructing, confirming k.t.l. ad nauseum oh so blasted tired! But very happy!” This luxury didn’t last long, as Lt. McMurtry soon found himself with little spare time as the class began to take up his every waking moment. On December 15th Crowley’s diary records that “H.A. phoned coming Wednesday 20th.” This was Grady’s plan, but the German Army had other plans.
Grady found the class rather exhaustive, packed with every type of bomb and explosive an individual ever wanted or cared to know about. Then one morning as he came downstairs he noticed the morning issue of Stars and Stripes sitting on a table. On the front page headlines announced that numerous German armored divisions were spearheading toward the very location where Grady had left his ‘Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company’ – at Brugelette, about 30 miles south of Brussels. The Battle of the Bulge was beginning. The German armor had moved quickly into Bastogne on December 20th and totally encircled the entire town. Gen. McAuliffe, who was in charge of the U.S. Army, refused to surrender to the Germans. When asked to do so, it is reported that his only reply was “Nuts.” The Americans were going to hold out. Grady was torn – he had planned to visit Crowley that day as his class had ended, but instead he decided it was best to immediately head back to his company and the war. Unfortunately, when he asked the desk sergeant for information on the next flight out he was informed, “Lieutenant, we can’t even drop paratroopers into Bastogne. How the hell are we going to fly you back to the Continent?” Grady was stuck in England. So what was he to do until the fog lifted?
Grady writes, “Grab one of those funny square London taxis with the open front end that can turn on a dime and score a bottle of black market Scotch for an exorbitant price. Then scrounge up a couple of cigars from some place and off to the Bell Inn at Aston Clinton.” After all, he had phoned Crowley earlier saying he was coming! Crowley’s diary for Wednesday, December 20th only records, “McM here.” Grady recalled that a great deal was said and discussed, but one thing really stuck out in his mind. It was when Crowley said, “You really must come back for Xmas. It is going to be the traditional English Xmas dinner complete with flaming plum pudding!” Bell Inn was after all known to be the “traditional” English country inn. Grady smiled, saying he’d try, but deep down inside he knew that he had to get back to his company in Bastogne. When Grady returned to London he again inquired after a flight to Bastogne, but still nothing was getting off the ground. The desk sergeant simply told him, “No, Lieutenant, all flights are cancelled for today, but be sure to be here at 8 o’clock in the morning.” The following day the fog was still too thick, like pea soup, and again on the following day. This time, realizing that he was stuck in London, he decided to catch another taxi and visit the Bell Inn. Crowley records that on Friday, December 22, “H.A. blew in to 2 o’c … Chess & more solid instruction in IX than I ever gave before to any one! He is quite O.K. for the dues.”
This pattern continued for a few days. Grady would present himself religiously at 8 o’clock every morning, only to be told that no flights were getting off the ground. The fog! Then on Sunday, December 24th, Lt. McMurtry received the news that most likely he’d be stuck in London for the Christmas holidays, so he immediately called up Aleister Crowley, who records in his diary, “H.A. phoned. Here Monday.” But what to do with your time while hanging around in London was Grady’s dilemma. Luckily he got acquainted with the British Officer Club circuit, which he noted “is quite different from the regular street pub” scene. Grady records that he spent a few days living it up around London, waiting for the fog to lift.
Then came Christmas. Crowley’s diary entry for Monday, December 25th simply records “A Christmas Thought. ‘It is more blessed to give/than to receive’ – Bless you! … 5 pounds from H.A.”
It might be best to quote from Grady’s own writings regarding this event, since he tells a great story. “… and then it was Xmas, and time to go visit Crowley up at Aston Clinton. But Hold! Enter the villain. The British railway drivers had had it up to the ears, and decided to pull a one day strike. They were not being unpatriotic, but you must understand that they had been fighting the war since Hitler had invaded Poland and the British were a tired people. So the railway employees just told the government flat, ‘For one bloody night, Gov, in all the years of this bloody war, we are going to have Xmas dinner with our families at home.’ Personally I approve, but it damn sure left me up a bloody creek because how was I to get back to London by 8 o’clock the next morning? On the other hand, who could miss having Xmas dinner with Aleister Crowley? So I said, ‘To hell with it, I’m going.’ After all, I had been risking my life on a daily basis ever since Normandy. Why should I worry about a reprimand? So by taxi up to Paddington Station, that great, gloomy, sooty cathedral to Victorian bad taste where you take the trains going North, and off at Aston Clinton station. Everything looked normal. Gates open. Lights on. Looked cheerful enough. Even serving that awful slop they call ‘tea’ in British railway stations in wartime England. That’s why they filled the glass half full with watered milk so you could gag down the stuff. At least it was hot and warmed your tummy on a cold night. Maybe everything would be all right. So off cheerfully to the Bell Inn and Crowley and we toasted the Yuletide with brandy and it was time to go down to dinner and all those suety things that only a Saxon stomach can take, and sure enough of the flaming plum pudding. Then back upstairs for more talk and brandy and the cigars and a wonderful time and around midnight it is time to say goodbye and I walk back down to the station in the fog that had come up. It looked like a tomb. Lights out. Gates locked. And not a person in sight. What the hell am I going to do? Ah. Brilliant inspiration! What is the one place in town that is going to be open all night? The police station, of course. Not hard to find. It was the only house in town that had it’s lights on. So I walked in and explained my problem to the Desk Sergeant. He was sympathetic, but said, ‘Not a chance. With the heavy ground fog, not even the lorries (trucks) are running.’ Then he brightened and said, ‘But there’s a bobby on a wheel (motorcycle) coming through in a few minutes going down to the next town toward London. Maybe you can hop a ride with him!’ So I find myself on the back end of a motor bike blasting through the fog freezing my end off down to the next station. And again to the next. What happened after that was a blur. All I remember for sure is waking up standing in the open back end of a milk truck running into the outskirts of London in a cloudy dawn trying to find some place where I can catch a tram. I made it to the Air Transport Office at just exactly 8 o’clock. only to be told, ‘Sorry, Lieutenant, all flights are cancelled for today. But be sure to be here at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning!’ It is really remarkable what some people go through just to’have lunch with Aleister Crowley, but personally I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”
It might be best to quote from Grady’s own writings regarding this event, since he tells a great story. “… [A]nd then it was Xmas, and time to go visit Crowley up at Aston Clinton. But Hold! Enter the villain. The British railway drivers had had it up to the ears, and decided to pull a one day strike. They were not being unpatriotic, but you must understand that they had been fighting the war since Hitler had invaded Poland and the British were a tired people. So the railway employees just told the government flat, ‘For one bloody night, Gov, in all the years of this bloody war, we are going to have Xmas dinner with our families at home.’ Personally I approve, but it damn sure left me up a bloody creek because how was I to get back to London by 8 o’clock the next morning? On the other hand, who could miss having Xmas dinner with Aleister Crowley? So I said, ‘To hell with it, I’m going.’ After all, I had been risking my life on a daily basis ever since Normandy. Why should I worry about a reprimand? So by taxi up to Paddington Station, that great, gloomy, sooty cathedral to Victorian bad taste where you take the trains going North, and off at Aston Clinton station. Everything looked normal. Gates open. Lights on. Looked cheerful enough. Even serving that awful slop they call ‘tea’ in British railway stations in wartime England. That’s why they filled the glass half full with watered milk so you could gag down the stuff. At least it was hot and warmed your tummy on a cold night. Maybe everything would be all right. So off cheerfully to the Bell Inn and Crowley and we toasted the Yuletide with brandy and it was time to go down to dinner and all those suety things that only a Saxon stomach can take, and sure enough of the flaming plum pudding. Then back upstairs for more talk and brandy and the cigars and a wonderful time and around midnight it is time to say goodbye and I walk back down to the station in the fog that had come up. It looked like a tomb. Lights out. Gates locked. And not a person in sight. What the hell am I going to do? Ah. Brilliant inspiration! What is the one place in town that is going to be open all night? The police station, of course. Not hard to find. It was the only house in town that had it’s lights on. So I walked in and explained my problem to the Desk Sergeant. He was sympathetic, but said, ‘Not a chance. With the heavy ground fog, not even the lorries (trucks) are running.’ Then he brightened and said, ‘But there’s a bobby on a wheel (motorcycle) coming through in a few minutes going down to the next town toward London. Maybe you can hop a ride with him!’ So I find myself on the back end of a motor bike blasting through the fog freezing my end off down to the next station. And again to the next. What happened after that was a blur. All I remember for sure is waking up standing in the open back end of a milk truck running into the outskirts of London in a cloudy dawn trying to find some place where I can catch a tram. I made it to the Air Transport Office at just exactly 8 o’clock. only to be told, ‘Sorry, Lieutenant, all flights are cancelled for today. But be sure to be here at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning!’ It is really remarkable what some people go through just to have lunch with Aleister Crowley, but personally I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”
The Germans Retreat
On December 26th the United States Army at Bastogne was finally relieved, and the German forces surrounding the town started withdrawing. Soon after this the fog lifted, and Lt. Grady McMurtry found himself heading back to the war. Grady’s private war diaries simply record, “1 Jan. London to Paris. 2 Jan. Paris to Brussels by night sleeper.” Grady returned to Belgium.
On January 17th, 1945, Aleister Crowley moved again, to Netherwood, Hastings, a large 19th century mansion hidden from the road by tall trees. Regrettably this building has been totally demolished, and no longer stands today.
Grady wrote few poems in 1945. The first was written about seven months after he came ashore at Normandy, on January 10th; entitled “Bitterness,” its title implies its overall theme. It gives a genuine flavor of Grady’s emotions during this period, especially the last few lines about the German soldiers which read: “God – damn their souls forevermore, And may they rot in Hell! We wanted Peace, they wanted War, So leave them where they fell.” Sounds like definite bitterness to me. The next poem was a short eight line reflection on his fellow soldiers who had been killed in battle, entitled “To My Fallen Comrade.” Eight days later he wrote another poem that was more along the lines of his favorite science fiction or fantasy themes. This poem was “Eld.”
By April 1945 the German resistance had collapsed and its army was in total disarray. The United States Army was quickly moving toward Berlin. Germany was all but beaten, with only small pockets of resistance scattered across the countryside. During this period Lt. McMurtry received a serious letter from Aleister Crowley, dated April 11th 1945, which was also a receipt for a payment making Lt. McMurtry a “fully paid member of the Ninth Degree and owner of 25% of the copyright of Magick Without Tears, with first priority on royalties. He has further priority on any copies unsold of The Book of Thoth … as collateral on sums advanced to the Order.”
Meanwhile, Grady was having too much fun. He wrote a friend in England, “[W]ish you were here to go on a champagne binge with me. Took out a patrol, as it were, the other day and brought back a truck load. Not so long ago we found a tank car of wine on a siding. Very thoughtful of the Jerries to leave it there for us.” In the same letter he also writes, “I’ve been seeing quite a bit of Hitler s Reich and expect to see a lot more. Very nice country. The scenery, I mean. What our air forces left of the cities shouldn’t happen to a dog house. They haven’t knocked down the walls and carted away the rubble as in London so that you find whole cities, and I don’t mean just large towns, that look like they had just been dug out of a mound by an archeological expedition. Which just goes to show that if you’re rude to other people they are apt to be rude right back at you.”
The following month, in May 1945, Germany officially surrendered. The war in Europe was over. Crowley records such simple comments as “Hitler officially dead. Hitler & Goebbels ‘felo de se’ – official” in his diaries on May 2; two days later, on the fourth, he writes that Germany gives its “official surrender to Monty,” or General Montgomery of the British Army. The best comment is made on May 23rd. Crowley writes, “Himmler, the Schweinhund & worse who put Karl Germer in Concentration Camps — chiefly because he was my friend! — killed himself after capture.” The Nazi regime was over.
Saying Goodbye to Crowley
In early June of 1945 Lt.Grady McMurtry again availed himself of an opportunity to go back to England for a short stay. In his diaries Grady writes, “9 June … Frankfurt (Germany) by truck for purpose of going to the U.K. on leave.” The last recorded poem which Grady produced in this year was written a few days later on June 11, 1945 while in France, its theme is war, as Grady reminiscences about the battle of St. Lo, and the poem is entitled “Breakthrough.” The next day Grady arrived in London where he remained for a few days so he could visit some friends. Then in his diaries he writes, “16 June 45 By bus to the Ridge to see Aleister. Looking about as good as usual.” According to Grady, “We [Aleister Crowley & himself] were discussing his problems one afternoon which were mostly those of Agape Lodge in Los Angeles. At which time I said, ‘Since you know me, and I know them, when I get home, [i.e. California] I will take a look at the situation and write you a report.’ Whereupon he said, ‘Fine. I hereby appoint you Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the Order.’ This is the only commission I have from Crowley that was purely verbal and for which I have no documents since Crowley did not provide me one at the time.”
On June 17th Grady wrote in his diary that he actually beat Crowley at chess! He seemed very proud of this fact — after all it was only the second time he has done such. — using “a sort of modified Danish gambit.” The next day Grady unfortunately had to return to duty. But first he and Crowley played a few more games of chess, had lunch together and he then records that Crowley “went in with me to the station” to say goodbye. Crowley writes in his diary, Monday, June 18th, “McM back to London & Germany.” Grady soon found himself back on the continent, and on June 20th he simply jots down in his diary, “Leave over so report in …”
Lt. McMurtry would send Aleister Crowley one of his final letters from. France, dated October 24th, 1945, where he states, “Yours of the 27th and 24th Sept., in that order, have found me still in France. I suppose you received the V-mail saying I had gone to the U.S. That was one of the unfortunate incidents accompanying transfer of personnel. A new mail clerk unwittingly posted those completed forms. Even so we did not expect to be here long. This delay of a month in redeployment caught us right behind the 8-ball…. Apparently my only prospect of seeing you will be to procure a passport and come to England after my release from the Army. Being caught in the toils of red tape involved in redeploying millions of men I doubt if I could arrange a stopover in England. Will try every possibility, however. It would probably be best if I were a civilian, anyway, and to be released from active duty I will have to go home.” Unfortunately Grady McMurtry would never have the opportunity to visit Aleister Crowley again before Crowley’s death.
By late November he found himself on a troopship bound for America. He arrived in New York on the 17th, and he arranged for two nights leave. He wrote in his diaries simply, “AWOL to see Karl & Sacha.” Grady was finally pleased to actually have the opportunity to play chess with Karl Germer, if only one game. He later wrote Crowley, “I won!”
Sovereign Grand Inspector General
Lt. McMurtry left on November 20th, flying out of Newark Airport on an old DC-4 bound for California. He wrote Crowley that he was planning on spending “a few days with his parents near Fresno.” After leaving his parents he headed to southern California and the Agape Lodge to act as a Sovereign Grand Inspector General for the OTO. Originally he wrote Crowley that he was hoping to leave by the 8th for L.A. but he records in his diaries, “17 Dec. San Francisco to L.A.” Grady remained in southern California until January 20th, gathering information and visiting with Agape Lodge members. One evening at the Lodge, Grady witnessed his old friend Jack Parsons do some fencing with another man who had been recently hanging around — it was L. Ron Hubbard. Grady writes they “decided to do some fencing — without masks. The light was very poor, and they kept tangling with the rugs but, as both men know something of the sport, it was not exactly mortal combat.” It was an interesting evening until Betty, the sister of Parson’s wife, walked into the room. Grady continues saying she “took a foil against Hubbard, I thought that someone was going to be killed. They finally desisted after she had been rapped smartly across the nose.” Just plain fun at the Agape Lodge.
I am not going to go into all the details of what was going on during this period that would warrant an Inspector General making an Official Report on Agape Lodge. I believe it would take a lengthy article to flush it out. It’s safe to say that Crowley was not happy with what he was hearing about Jack Parsons and the antics of others at the Lodge. The Official Report dated January 25th, 1946 that Grady McMurtry submitted to Aleister Crowley is very lengthy. It ends with the statement that this is “[t]he end of the report on Hodge-Podge-Lodge – otherwise known to its inmates as Ghastly Gables.” Crowley definitely liked the report.
As previously stated, by late January Grady was in San Francisco waiting for his discharge papers from the Army. He writes Crowley a letter letting him know “that I am once again established in San Francisco and am now enjoying the amphibious existence of being half soldier-half civilian. I will still be in the army until my terminal leave is up in February but I can wear civilian clothes, if I can find them.”
Grady sent Crowley another letter from San Francisco dated January 26, 1946, where he remarks: “O yes, the Army finally got around to promoting me just before I got out. I am now a Captain. Something like sending flowers to my funeral.” In another letter early the next month (2/1/46) he writes “… the promotion comes in very handy. Mostly because it will be gratifying to be able to step in as a Captain in the next war instead of having to fight my way up from the ranks again. Me thinks that the army may be the safest place to be in the next war.” What is most interesting about the letter written on January 26th is Grady’s paragraph which deals with his “little figure” or image which he has designed. Grady with a great sense of humor actually had the nerve to ask Crowley to “Be a nice Beastie and tell me what to do with it.” Its amazing ‘Beastie’ didn’t. Rather in his reply letter Crowley simply states, “I do not see exactly how I can help you about your squiggle; it seems to me that you have worked it out extremely well, especially the complete seal at the bottom.” This ‘squiggle’ that Grady draws in the letter for Crowley is (see Fig.1) one which he further states contains a great deal of mystical meaning.” Grady writes a whole paragraph about this symbol and further elaborates that he’d like “to make a seal ring. I am thinking of having a design such as this (see Fig.2) cut on it. Thus I would have the feather of Thoth-Maat at the prow and the hawk of Horus at the helm, with the sun and the star representing Hadit and Nuit.” In the future he would occasionally use this symbol as his signature at the bottom of some letters. Grady also drew this symbol in green pencil in the center of a small tombstone which has a tiny little worm crawling across the top. (See Fig.3) This drawing is located on the top of an original typed copy of one of his undated poems, “A Worm in Earnest.” The drawing might imply that the “little worm who burrows, burrows” is crawling across the top of Grady’s own tombstone.
By February 1946 Grady Louis McMurtry was making plans to attend the University of California at Berkeley on the G.I. Bill to take up “classical studies,” eager to get on with his life now that the war was over. There is only one poem from this period, entitled “End Run,” dated February 17, 1946, but presumably Grady wrote others. The following month, on March 22, the first of two extremely important documents from Aleister Crowley arrived. In the document of the 22nd Crowley appointed Grady “as Our personal representative in the United States of America, and his Authority is to be considered as Ours, subject to the approval, revision, or veto of Our Viceroy Karl Johanness Germer IX° OTO …” The next to arrive came dated April 11th, 1946, and briefly states, “This is to authorize Frater Hymenaeus Alpha (Capt. Grady L. McMurtry) to take charge of the whole work of the Order in California to reform the Organization in pursuance of his report of Jan. 25, ’46 e.v. subject to the approval of Fr. Saturnus (Karl J. Germer). This authorization is to be used only in emergency.”
Grady did publish one of his poems during this period. It appeared a magazine published by students at the University of California, where he was enrolled. The poem was entitled “The Cyclops” (written in 1942), and appeared in the Spring 1946 issued of The Occident, A Literary Magazine.
Crowley and McMurtry continued to exchange many letters during the postwar period, but many were friendly correspondence rather than official business. One particular letter which Grady wrote to Crowley dated May 12th, 1946 is worth quoting. It contains some gossip about his wife Foxie, which is Foxie #2, or Marjorie Fox, not to be confused with Foxie #1, or Claire … Confused? … Even Grady must remind Crowley, “that’s my wife.” Anyway she is pregnant and expecting to give birth “to a new McMurtry in October.” In the same letter Grady states, “Here is a copy of Space Tides, my latest effort in the line of poetry. Had hoped to make it longer but I had to cut it short as I wanted to enter it in a poetry contest over at the University. Then I found a copy of the poem that won last year’s prize and decided that I didn’t have a chance.” Crowley replied to Grady in a letter dated June 14th, 1946. He made no mention of “Space Tides” or what his views were of this rather lengthy poem.
There are a few letters in between, but the letter of November 14th, 1946 begins with Grady writing, “Well, the great event has evented so I thought I would drop you a few lines. Foxie was delivered of a 7 pound some ounce baby boy yesterday morning, November 13, at approximately 9 AM. We have named him Grady Shannon and mother and son are doing nicely. Proud pappy went down to the office and sowed his cigars and was the recipient of many a vacuous stare and hearty handshake and that is just about it.” Actually Grady was extremely worried toward the end of the pregnancy because the baby was a month late, and had been expected since October 20th. At this point Grady is still taking philosophy courses at U.C. Berkeley. His poetry began to slack off, and very little survives from this period. We do know that he kept in close contact with the Agape Lodge in Los Angeles, but he was basically attempting to get his life together, coping with college, work and a family.
Soon the new year of 1947 was upon Grady Louis McMurtry family. He “surfaces” again and finally writes Aleister Crowley a letter dated January 3rd, 1947. It begins, “No doubt you have enjoyed a welcome relief from the persistence of my letters, but now I am back in circulation. The proximate cause, as they say in the Army, for my lack of letter writing recently was a piece of philosophical research that I had to work out for myself.” Grady then spends the rest of the letter discussing rather in depth this philosophical problem. He ends his letter very lovingly but a little worried about Aleister Crowley’s health and the harsh British weather that he’s been hearing about. In February Grady McMurtry wrote a poem entitled “3 Pears Dormant.” It is the only dated poem from this year which survives on file.
Aleister Crowley Dies
In April Aleister Crowley writes a scribbled letter to Grady where he claims that on March 8th his health failed badly and that he came very close to “cashing in my checks!” It had been a severe winter, and Grady’s reply of the 15th voices concern and relief that Crowley is alright. Crowley replied, “I was very glad indeed to have your letter of the 15th inst. The Winter here has been unspeakable — one of the worst I ever experienced, and I have known some. It has kept me ill but ailing and confined to the house for practically the whole time. It has not let up on us yet.” The rest of the letter discusses Shannon’s horoscope and Crowley’s views on some of the philosophy which Grady rambled on about in an earlier letter. Crowley’s letters are getting shorter.
In June Aleister Crowley writes out his Last Will & Testament. He also writes Grady McMurtry a letter dated June 17th, which begins, “It seems a long while since I heard from you. This is a great mistake: I will tell you why in strict confidence. In the event of my death, Frater Saturnus is of course my successor, but after his death the terrible burden of responsibility might very easily fall upon your shoulders: for this reason I should like you to keep closely in touch with me.”
Throughout the next few months Crowley and Grady exchanged many letters, mainly discussing philosophy and gossip regarding the Californian OTO. For example, in September Grady asked Crowley, “By the way, would you be in need of any winter under clothing? During the bitter cold prevailing in Northern France in the winter of ’44 and the first part of ’45 (during the Battle of the Bulge) I had occasion to acquire a considerable supply of ‘long-handles’ and heavy socks. I hear that it is going to be cold again in Europe this winter so if you want them just whistle.” This is the gist of many of the letters — just very friendly. The last letter Aleister Crowley wrote to Grady is dated November 5, 1947, a very brief reply to Grady’s letter of October 26th. He ends the letter, “Love to Foxie and Shannon as well as to yourself, with my blessing.”
On Monday, December 1, Aleister Crowley died at the age of 72.
On Wednesday morning Grady Louis McMurtry received a Western Union telegram which simply stated, “Aleister died peacefully Monday 11 AM Love, Karl (&) Sascha.”
He replied to Germer’s telegram with a letter dated December 9th. “Your night-letter informing me of Aleister’s death reached me Wednesday Morning. I find it difficult to describe my feelings. I suppose that ‘Choric sadness’ comes about as close to it as anything. A great, ringing chorus of joy to send him on his way to the fulfillment of his Will, and at the same time a certain infinite sadness that I have lost, temporarily at least, a friend and we have lost a teacher. You will note that the sadness is for myself, not Aleister.”
The Aleister Tree
Shortly after Aleister Crowley’s death Karl Germer assumed the office of Outer Head of the Order of the OTO. The politics of the OTO under the leadership of Karl Germer changed drastically. It is not the purpose of this short biography to go into details regarding the problems and events that would so completely reshape the Order. It is fair to say that Frater Saturnus like his namesake, Saturn, “ate his children.” Within the following years Aleister Crowley’s entire library in England was packed and shipped to Germer in New York. It didn’t take Germer long to realize that he needed larger quarters, and soon moved to a house in Hampton, New Jersey.
Like many OTO members, Grady remained intermittently active in the Order for quite awhile. In 1948 he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from the University of Berkeley. His political science thesis was entitled The Millennial Glow: Myth and Magic in the Marxist Ethic. It is noteworthy that between Crowley’s death and May of 1949 there is only one surviving dated poem, entitled “Of Emerald Earth.” Once again, we do not know which of the undated poems come from this period.
On February 24th, 1950 one of the founding members of the Ordo Templi Orientis in the United States died in Canada — Frater Achad, Charles Stansfeld Jones. Later that year on June 25th the North Korean army invaded South Korea and was quickly declared the “aggressor” by the United Nations. By August, U.S. troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur had already halted the advance of North Koreans. In 1951 Grady was called back into active military service, and thus we come to his second tour of duty, this time as Captain Grady Louis McMurtry, Ordnance Corps, U.S. Army Korea. Grady has written that “we did not call it a war in those days, although it obviously was … at least those of us who got to Korea quickly discovered that it was a real live shooting war. My particular piece of the action was that of Ammunition Supply Officer for the Central Front — that would be from Chunchon north to Whacon, Kumwa and the Iron Triangle, the main line of Resistance being held by 9 Corps American on the left, 2nd ROK in the center, and 10 Corps American on the right, which we damn near lost when the Chinese hit the Khumwa Ridge with a human wave offensive that went on for a solid week in October of 1953 … [W]e never thought about the North Koreans when I was there, so far as we were concerned we were fighting the Chinese.”
Before going to Korea Captain McMurtry was assigned for awhile as a Training Officer for a group of Reserve Units that were stationed in Baltimore, Maryland. It turned out that his base was not far from Hampton, New Jersey, where Karl Germer had moved. Naturally, Grady visited Karl at his new address as often as he could. One story that Grady loved to tell and retell is worth repeating at length. It deals with the ashes of Aleister Crowley, which had been sent to Germer after Crowley’s cremation in England.
Grady recounts that during a particular visit in 1951 he and Karl were “taking a walk down the driveway and into the front yard. I remember it had rained, one of those sudden New Jersey thunder squalls that are heralded by hot, muggy winds and high white cumulus, and followed by heavy downpour. I was walking on the right. Naturally I was, in uniform. It seemed like I always was in those days. While we were walking along — as usual I had lighted my pipe, Karl suddenly pointed to a scroungy tree and said, ‘And that is the Aleister Crowley tree!’ Being a little slow on the uptake, I said, ‘What?,’ and he repeated with somewhat more emphasis; ‘That is the Aleister Crowley tree!’ I still didn’t get it and said something like; ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘Well one day Sascha and I were discussing what to do with Crowley’s ashes and suddenly she took the urn in which they were kept and dashed them at the foot of this tree and said, This is the Aleister Crowley tree!’ So I looked at the stupid tree and I looked at the muddy ground at the base of it. Obviously there was no sign of the ashes and obviously there was no way they could be recovered, and I was sick in the stomach.”
In his correspondence, Germer tells a different story — claiming that a few years earlier in 1949 he and his wife simply decided to give Aleister Crowley a proper burial. It appears Sascha did not smash the urn at the base of a tree. Karl wrote to Jane Wolfe stating that “[o]n April 8th Sacha and I gave A.C.’s ashes the final resting place. We have 5 very large Pines in the front of our house and Sascha suggested the foot of the finest (called Aleister) as the spot. I dug a pit under the pine and we had a small ceremony on April 8th. The ashes are in a small casket which in turn is in a strong box.” Some years later when Germer was moving to California he wrote, “I have decided to unearth the ashes and take them West in the car.” Unfortunately he records that he could only find the rusted nails of the strong box.
The Korean War
But to return to the war, and the question: how did Grady lose a gravy job in Baltimore and end up in Korea? After the Reserve Training job in Baltimore Grady was “assigned to the Army’s Office of Psychological Warfare at the Pentagon. It was a very good job and I know I would have liked it. It required Top SECRET clearance. On my application for security clearance I noted that I was a member of Aleister Crowley’s (notorious) ORDO TEMPLI ORIENTIS. I wasn’t refused clearance. The Herr GENerALL just quietly withdrew my application. That is how I wound up in Korea.”
Grady had been stationed in Korea for almost a year on the Eastern Front near Kim Chun. He recalled that “[o]ne day, I had to go to the local lavatory which happened to be a shack, of course, with three holes cut in a piece of board” with “the cold Korean air blowing up the crack of your ass.” While he was sitting there he picked up a magazine from the pile and began to flip through it. The magazine was called People Today, the August 13th, 1952 issue. He abruptly stopped at an article entitled “The L.A. Lust Cult: Weird Black Magic Rites Flourish in Wealthy Pasadena.” The article dealt with the recent accidental death of a rocket scientist in a bomb explosion. He read further, and found to his horror that it was about Jack Parsons! Grady was in “a bit of a shock.” No one had bothered to write him to let him know of the tragic death of his old friend. He later learned that Jack had accidently dropped a can of mercury fulminate in his laboratory. The explosion knocked him momentarily unconscious, burning and mangling him severely, and he later died in the hospital.
Back in Korea, in 1953 the Communists abruptly agreed to an Allied peace proposal, and by July of that year a truce was signed by both sides at Panmunjom, thus officially ending the “police action.” Shortly before the truce was actually signed, Cap. McMurtry found himself transferred from the Korean front to Japan, where he spent the next six months. His job was that of Explosives Safety Engineer, inspecting the cargo ships being loaded with high explosives, bombs and ammunition bound for Korea. As he has told it, it was his job to make sure the Japanese “didn’t blow up the place thru careless handling of what was to them just wooden crates of stiffs.” By the end of 1953 Grady found himself a civilian once again. He received his discharge papers. He did however buy into the American fear of that period, and stayed in the Army Reserves, “just in case.” He aimed to help do what every other red-blooded American wanted to do, “keep America strong.” He was promoted yet again just before getting out of the service and was now Major Grady Louis McMurtry. Shortly after his release he returned to San Francisco, and by 1954 he was a graduate student and teaching assistant in the Political Science Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Grady held this position until 1956.
At around this time Karl Germer decided he wanted to leave New Jersey and head for the warm, sunny weather of California. Germer lived in assorted apartments for several years before settling into a small house about six miles outside West Point, in northeast California. During the late 50’s, Grady McMurtry held a job as a management analyst for the State Department of Labor in Sacramento, California. Then on March 29th, 1958 Jane Wolfe, another early member of the OTO, died in southern California in Los Angeles. The following year in 1959 Grady wrote such poems as “The Great White Hunter” and “The Beatnick Mother Goose.”
Grady’s Magickal Thesis
In 1961 Grady moved to Washington D.C. to take an administrative position in the Treasury Department, but only stayed in this position for about a year, soon moving to the Labor Department. For the next eight years he lived and worked in Washington D.C.
Just before moving to Washington, in March of 1961, Grady McMurtry had one of the single most important visions of his entire life. He was sitting behind his desk at the Office of Management Analysis at the Department of Labor, which was the top floor of an eight story building in Sacramento. He was sort of spacing, lost in thought, when he noticed on the North wall to his left was a great White Star. He said it was kind of “Chrismasy, if you know what I mean.” He then envisioned just below this Star a Great Black City, the City of Dreadful Night which is attributed to the Qabalistic Sphere of Binah. He believed it was a “Vision of the Star Card” of Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Deck. So instead of doing his required government work, he turned his typewriter toward the south and wrote the poem “The Star of the Magi” almost immediately. It was magick. He would continue writing poems which related to Crowley’s Thoth cards until the last of the 22 manifested on December 5th, 1961, titled “The Ark of the Covenant.” Grady has admitted that some of these poems he considered really “good, some of them bad …” further stating with a chuckle, “I know!”
He wrote that, “Crowley’s dictum that the Adept only has 2 real steps to take: (1) to achieve 5=6 which means bringing your Energy up to your Heart Chakra Tiphereth where you meet your HGA & then ‘under that divine guidance’ to (2) essay the ‘adventure of the Abyss,’ I named it [the Twenty Two Poems] The Angel and the Abyss, A Cycle of 22 Poems in Honor of Our Maid of the Star Drifts.” This particular cycle of poetry signified an important stage in Grady’s magical life. He considered these poems to be his Thesis on the Universe. It portrays his personal attempts at bringing his energy upward into his Solar Center and then immersing himself in Crossing the Abyss. By this point Grady had already moved to Washington, D.C.
Shortly after completing this cycle Grady claims, “I decided to come down thru the Sepheroth from Kether to Malkuth, including Daath … The entire cycle I called Dark Space and Bright Stars, A Cycle of 11 Poems Celebrating the Mysteries of the Virgin Goddess.” The first of these poems, which manifested on January Ist, 1962, is entitled “Her Lovely Hair” and is attributed to the sphere of Kether. The last appeared on May 31st called “A Fall of Angels,” it represented Malkuth. The only other poem which Grady wrote this year was in June, “The Mystical Marriage of the Soldier and the Queen.” Then, as prolifically as the poetry had flowed, it stopped.
Karl Germer’s Death
A year after Grady McMurtry moved into seclusion with his new job in Washington, DC, Karl Germer died of prostate cancer in West Point, California. It was October of 1962. Few in the OTO knew of his death. Even Grady didn’t know; he just continued on with his life. According to Germer’s Last Will & Testament he left “the whole of my property and possessions to my beloved wife Sascha Ernestine Andre-Germer as sole heir.” He did not, as some historians believe, leave the OTO property to her. To further quote his will, “As regards the property of the Order Ordo Templi Orientis, of which I am the Head, I direct that this is passed to the Heads of the Order, but that, my wife, Sascha E. Andre-Germer, has to be the executor of this part of my will, together with Frederic Mellinger IXth Degree of the OTO.” The executors’ basic job was to make sure that the OTO property ended up in the hands of the “Heads of the Order.” We do know that Mellinger, then in Germany, was eventually notified to assist Sascha in concluding the administration of the will. However Mellinger’s treatment by both Karl and Sascha made him cautious, and his involvement was limited to contradicting Sascha’s choice of the Swiss O.T.O. under Hermann Metzger. Thereafter Sascha was left on her own in deciding what to do with Crowley’s library and his possessions, something she was incapable of due to her increasingly fragile mental state and her ignorance of OTO customs. She distrusted everyone, especially the old Agape Lodge members, most of whom were not even contacted regarding Germer’s death. In the end Sascha decided to keep all the possessions and to leave everything basically as it was.
In 1962 Grady McMurtry was still in the Army Reserves, having been made a Major shortly after the Korean War. He was pulling special Reserve Duty one night a month with the Mobilization Designation Detachment No. 26, Office of Comptroller of the U.S. Army at the Pentagon. Unfortunately, due to typical Pentagon red tape and paper shuffling, somehow Maj. Grady McMurtry did not complete all the appropriate forms in triplicate, nor get all the signatures required by December 12th, 1962. This meant only one thing: he was forced to take permanent retirement. Thus in 1963 Grady found himself a “real civilian” for the first time since 1941, with absolutely no military attachment.
Meanwhile, it took almost five years for Germer’s death to slowly trickle down to southern California. What occurred next would require a rather lengthy article to explain in detail, but what happened can be summed up as tragic. A group of individuals who believed that the OTO was dead took it upon themselves to break into three homes and steal the libraries. One of the homes which was ransacked belonged to Sascha Germer, and much of the Crowley library was taken, along with many of his manuscripts and personal possessions. This occurred over the Labor Day weekend of 1967. An old Agape Lodge member, Soror Meral, immediately began a personal investigation to discover the identify of the thieves. She drew her own conclusions as to who had ripped off the libraries, but that is another story. Soror Meral was living in a house in Dublin, California. During her investigation she contacted quite a few of the old Agape Lodge members, one of which was Grady Louis McMurtry in Washington D.C. They struck up a correspondence between December ’68 till April of 1969. A lot was discussed, and it was through one of these letters that Grady first learned of Karl Germer’s death. Soon after this, Soror Meral recalls, “I learned that he (Grady) held letters of authorization in regards to the O.T.O. from Crowley which also named him as Caliph and successor to Karl.” Soror Meral and Grady further discussed at length the possibility of starting up a Thelemic order using Crowley’s authorizations. During this period of time Grady had already been divorced from his second wife and was single, with no attachments. He thought it was a good idea trying to revive the OTO. The plan was soon agreed upon, and Grady Louis McMurtry left his job and arrived in California on April 29th 1969. Also toward the end of 1969 Grady married his third wife, Phyllis Seckler, in Tijuana, Mexico.
On a poetic level, from 1962 till early 1972 there are almost no poems written from the pen of Grady McMurtry. He wrestled with the mundane world and continued privately with his studies. Grady wrote only two poems in 1972, the first in February, called “Blind Horus”; in the following month he penned “The Throne of Hell,” believed by some to be one of his last dated poems that he wrote.
Reviving the OTO
Once in California, Grady McMurtry used his “emergency power” given to him by Aleister Crowley to reactivate the OTO. The first thing he did was to contact both Israel Regardie and Gerald Yorke whom he regarded as ‘The Eyes of Horus.” Grady hoped that both would give their approval after reviewing his documents from Crowley; both did. This period, from the late sixties through the early seventies became known as the Kaaba Clerk House days, but unfortunately they would not be totally successful. A book by Nat Freeland entitled The Occult Explosion (1972) gives a brief mention of Grady during this period. A few years earlier, in September of 1970 Freeland wrote Grady a letter stating that “Israel Regardie suggested I could reach you…. I am writing a book about the current resurgence of U.S. interests in the occult science.” Freeland was asking for info about the OTO. Although when his book was finally published it only briefly mentioned the “mysterious couple, the McMurtrys, who preside over the official U.S. branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis from a post office box in Dublin, California, a small town north of San Francisco” and little else. Grady lived at this Dublin address — which was his wife’s house — for approximately six years between early 1969 and 1974. Then due to difficulties in their marriage he moved out and took up residency in Berkeley.
In early April of 1975 Sascha Germer died in West Point, California. No one found out for almost a year. Regarding Sascha Germer’s estate, on July 26th, 1976 the Superior Court of the State of California said that the remaining property was to be turned over to Grady Louis McMurtry, the “[d]uly constituted and authorized representative of the Ordo Templi Orientis.” In that same year of 1976 Grady and Phyllis were finally divorced. The marriage had lasted about seven years.
The history of why the OTO almost slipped into a certain death under Germer’s leadership, and how Grady Louis McMurtry saved it from near oblivion, is extremely well documented. It is a major part of the legacy which we owe the man. His hard work and belief in Aleister Crowley brought the order from near-extinction to what it is today. No one can deny this. All the documents and papers of authority which have been discussed in this biography gave him sole and rightful claim to assume the world leadership of the Ordo Templi Orientis, and with Grady at its helm we have sailed into prosperous waters. Even the courts of the United States agreed.
According to Grady, in the early spring of ’77 he did some “fairly heavy magick” to open “up the Order to an influx of psychic energy from the ancient Egyptian Gods worshipped by the Order.” Jokingly, he then goes, “KAPLOOIE!!”, and continues by stating that “the hippie-commie-pervert-weirdo-heathen occultists of Berkeley descended upon him ‘en masse’, to check him out.” They “found a hard drinking, hard thinking crusty old man, with one of the world’s greatest collections of humorous Al Crowley stories.” Soon his house became filled every week with an increasing number of Crowleyites, eager to learn about Thelema and to join his magical order. It was like magic! Some were obviously Bezerkeleyites but many others were serious students who wanted to study. In April of 1977 Grady McMurtry held some of the first initiations into the Ordo Templi Orientis since the Kaaba Clerk House days of the early seventies.
Then on October 12th, 1977, just as the Sun passed the peak of an eclipse on the birthday of Aleister Crowley, a “Charter” was signed in Berkeley, California by Frater Hymenaeus Alpha IX° 777 using Crowley’s special Seal Ring. Grady McMurtry then magically uttered the word ‘OTO,’ thus giving birth to the Grand Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis. His entire life had been preparing him for that one single moment. One article from 1977 has stated, “Like a phoenix rising from the flames, Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis appears to be reborn, thanks to Bay Area occult know-how and a little divine help.” Wherever Aleister Crowley is, he could only be proud of the young man whom he met thirty four years earlier that pounded on his door one cold, winter day answering, “I am Lieutenant McMurtry.”
I have only fond memories of Grady from 1977. He had been a guest at my house back in Connecticut on several occasions. He was truly a marvelous man to have known, with a great sense of humor and a hearty robust laugh which this author shall never forget. He always thought I was a workaholic and often told me so. I remember one particular evening as he was showing slides of the Korean War to a late night crowd of friends in my parlor I had fallen asleep in the front row. Ironically everyone during the day, Grady included, had taken a nap but me. I was forced to answer the phones and make all the last minute arrangements for the evening’s festivities. It was only natural that in a dark room I slowly slipped off into unconsciousness. Half way through the presentation Grady came upon the particular slide which he wanted to show me. He proceeded to explain the imagery behind “the bear” and its symbolism in Korean art. After a rather lengthy comment he asked my opinion. I didn’t answer. He asked again, and again silence. Everybody was starting to squirm in their seats. The person closest to me gave me a shove in hopes that it might wake me. All it managed to produced was a rather loud snore and gurgling sound from an exhausted individual. I didn’t wake. Everyone laughed, and later I was told that Grady with his typical wit, chuckled and replied laughingly in a loud voice, “Critics!” The bear symbolism was something Grady felt was deeply rooted in my archetype. When he released Crowley’s 777 in April 1980 he sent a copy inscribed, “Jerry, Here’s to a Bear for Work!”
I have many such memories, of the two of us walking along the beach quietly sharing thoughts, of playing chess or just sitting around discussing theories of magick and the universe while drinking ourselves into a stupor. At the time I had an old blue tipped Siamese cat named Ling. Qabalistically his name added to 93. He was the house God and he knew it. He would simply walk up to the door and sit staring as only a Siamese can and then let out a deep yowl as if to say, “Hey you! Come open the door now!” Most of us simply ignored him because he was in and out all day long, but for some reason Grady took an immediate love to the cat. Not only was Ling his personal lap cat but if he yowled, Grady would stop what ever he was doing, laugh and say, “The Master calls!” He would then get up and go over to the door to let him out. It became a ritual we all enjoyed.
For some, reading a biography with so much emphasis on Grady McMurtry’s involvement in the war as a soldier might seem unnecessary. But for those who knew the man, these are the infamous “Grady Stories.” In his memory, I have repeated a few of the best of them. Back in the 70’s when I first became involved with the Ordo Templi Orientis it was a standard part of our Minerval Obligation to persevere through these stories. Many of us have survived this ordeal and have come through stronger. I only hope that the reader appreciates what we all went through.
Grady didn’t write any poetry toward the end of his life, but he sure loved reading to us the ones he had written years earlier. It meant so much to him. At the end of his life Grady suffered from pulmonary edema, which is a condition in which water surrounds the heart, causing strain on the heart muscles and often resulting in death. In his last year he had been hospitalized several times for this ailment. Finally, on July 12, 1985, after a long illness, Grady Louis McMurtry died. He was lying in his hospital bed discussing forms of meditation with a friend when he softly said, “I think my path is more the Sufi Path.” When questioned what he meant, he simply looked up and said, “I don’t know.” He then closed his eyes and quietly died.
On July 15th his body was cremated and several months later as he requested, his ashes were spread across the Pacific Ocean just past the Golden Gate Bridge. The poem which was read at his funeral service was “Requiem.”
Love is the law, love under will. – AL I:57
Written this 27th Day of March, 1994 ev
The Sun in Aries & The Moon in Libra
In the Valley Of Berkeley, California
by Frater ACHAD OSHER 583 VIII° O.T.O.