Grand Lodge of Australia


Australian publisher Percy Reginald Stephensen (1901-1965) or ‘Inky’ as he was known, was Aleister Crowley’s publisher at the Mandrake Press in London over 1929-30. If it were not for Mandrake’s collapse due to a mix of financial and friendship woes, Crowley would have realised his most ambitious publishing program since the Volume 1 of The Equinox years.

Inky fondly remembered meeting Crowley for the first time. Crowley was “eccentrically clad, and with a shaved head – bald, save for a small phallic forelock.” He simply announced to Stephensen “I would like you to publish my life story.” A bemused Stephen, about half Crowley’s age at only twenty-eight, replied “well, where is it?” Crowley responded “I’ve got it outside,” and returned with “a small boy pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with manuscripts.”*

Aleister Crowley

While eventually going their separate ways and Inky returning to Australia, considerable interest in Crowley, now deceased, was revived in the 1950s with the publication of The Great Beast by John Symonds. Inky was livid: “Now that he [Crowley] is safely dead some filthy swine has written a book about him, serving up all the old libels and sensationalist bunkum.”* Fired up, Inky was soon in touch with his old acquaintance from the Mandrake years, Crowley’s friend Gerald Yorke. The archivist Yorke was preserving and collecting Crowley’s papers, manuscripts, and publications. He urged Inky to check his own papers for Mandrake material and Crowley papers.

Inky had published Volumes One and Two of Crowley’s Confessions under the Mandrake imprint. It was a bold Six Volume project. The demise of Mandrake put an end to it, with Inky feeling the collapse was due to Crowley’s persistent meddling in the business. As tensions flared, Inky had ended up telling Crowley to stay away from the office: “I want you to regard Mandrake Press Ltd. as your publishers and not to prejudice the purely commercial side of that purely publishing concern with any of your fits and starts, Thelemite politics, earthquakes, and other distracting phenomena of art and nature…which tend to accompany your too personal intrusion into the world of practical affairs.”* In Inky’s opinion, “the real or ‘magical’ explanation was that A.C. did not want the Third Volume to be published.”* Inky thought deep down Crowley was scared.

Face-to-face, however, Crowley had gusto: “The whole problem from the magical standpoint lies in getting Volume Three of the Confessions out. The Book of the Law must be published with its comment and an account of how thou didst come hither.”* On another occasion, Crowley wrote to Inky, “We can’t be devilled in much more shit than we are at this moment which leaves me as it leaves you…so do something desperate and get it out.”* Stephensen did try desperately, but while making it to proofs, Volume Three was never published.

Now in the 1950s, Yorke realised those Volume Three proofs were missing. It seemed that Inky didn’t have them either, but then in 1956 the Melbourne bookdealer Norman Robb wrote excitedly to Gerald Yorke:

“As we Australians say: You wouldn’t read about it! The thing is incredible, unbelievable and out of this world. At 5 minutes to 6 on the evening of Saturday 4th Feb 1956 I had a telephone call. When I raised the receiver, I heard a ROAR of “Do what thou wilt…[shall be the whole of the Law.]” To which I replied “Love is the law,…[love under will.]” To which came the HOWL: “Eureka! I’ve found it! The only copy in the world of the Third Volume of the Hagiography.”*

Inky made copies for Gerald Yorke and Crowley’s successor in OTO, Karl Germer. The rest is, as they say, history. One of the most important works of Crowley’s was preserved.

Inky’s final words on Crowley?

“…no man was ever quite the same after knowing Crowley! Acting foolishly himself, he could purge folly from others, and this may be the ultimate effect of his life and works when they are seen in the perspective of time.”*

*All quotes from the Introduction to The Legend of Aleister Crowley: A Study of the Facts by P.R. Stephensen & Aleister Crowley, edited by Stephen J King (Helios Books, 2007).