The Masks of Lam

Seven Masks


When the Egg symbol first appears in the Amalantrah Working it is placed in a frame. A frame provides a context in which the work it contains can be viewed. Much of Aleister Crowley's work can only be properly understood in the context of his life and his times. This is equally true of his art. Removed from its original 'frame', i.e. out of context, his work can be very easily misunderstood. This is particularly true of his drawing 'The Way', probably executed during or shortly after the Amalantrah Working. How the portrait of 'Lam' is viewed today has changed significantly since it was first exhibited in New York in 1919.

Over the past two years I have been, both philosophically and artistically, on the trail of 'Kwaw Li Ya', Crowley's 'Chinese' persona and reincarnation of the Daoist adept Ko Hsuan. It has been a strange but fascinating metaphorical journey that has taken me across China from the high Himalayas to Shanghai and led eventually to Esopus Island on the Hudson River. It may be thought stranger still that I should return from that journey with seven masks.

In my article 'Images of the Mystery' in Starfire Vol. 2, No. 4, I have attempted to demonstrate that many of the threads woven together by Kenneth Grant into the modern 'myth' surrounding his Cult of Lam lead back either to Far Eastern sources or to interpretations of East Asian traditions by Madame Blavatsky and Crowley himself.

It is my personal belief that Crowley's 'portrait of Lam' is still best viewed in the context of his fascination with and experience of the Orient. Far from being a 'little green man', let alone a 'grey' one, 'Lam' emerges as an adept of the Yellow School. Like the disembodied Chinese doll's head and strange, lycanthropic Japanese-looking face that appear in the opium fumes of the Amalantrah Working, 'The Lama' (as Crowley himself called the drawing) is part of the oriental paraphernalia surrounding the great magical 'act' staged by Kwaw Li Ya in New York in 1919.

The seven masks may now be commissioned as original works of art.

Gary Dickinson