[Note: some of my speculations have been proved wrong by later developments, as in Dæmonomania. Nonetheless, I am going to leave the earlier reviews as they are].
(All page numbers refer to the first hardbound edition).
This is the third time through the book for me, this last pass after reading the sequel, Love & Sleep. Details which seemed undifferentiated background now stand out because they are important in the second book. I could not have predicted the course of the story after reading Ægypt; it seemed to me the author had painted himself into a corner and despaired of finding his way out. Now the direction is much more clearly in focus and I think Crowley has always known the way forward.
Reflections on my previous readings. The first time, I did not make the distinction between the two women, Rosie Rasmussen and Rose Ryder, and was suitably disoriented when I realized my error. Our hero, Pierce, also makes this mistake, starting on pg 126 and not discovering the truth until pg 377. I am uncertain whether I was supposed to make the error along with Pierce or not. The two women and the triangle with Mike are clearly mentioned on pg 46. But I think this is a plot-twist meant to confuse the first-time reader.
In my review of Love & Sleep I wonder if Rose and Rosie really are separate women, or always will be. In this first book Spofford mentions in passing that he had a brief affair with Rose. So: two red-heads, closely matching names, both having a sexual history with Mike and Spofford, and who Pierce (and the reader) initially combines into one! This seems a bit spooky to me.
In both books, there is only one passage revealing that Rose has an inner life: when she takes the balloon ride on pg 384. There is some strange relationship between Rose and the cottage she visits with Pierce on their boat ride. Perhaps signals arrive from the future, when she and Pierce will have an affair there, beyond the second book.
Earlier, I also wondered why the contemporary characters cared so much about "real magic" when Dee and Bruno obviously took "magic" as a metaphor for purely mental phenomena. This is much less "obvious" now. Dee really does want to talk with real angels. Talbot/Kelley does want to make gold. Bruno really believes he is kin to supernatural deities and that he can make the world different than it is.
I also thought that Pierce's dream of the master and the journey (pg 137) was some sort of mystical memory, and that he was perhaps Bruno reincarnated. Now it seems just a dream of Gnostic import, and his eerie revelations ("Ægypt", "Adocentyn") are recaptured memories from his childhood.
Some notes on the structure of the book, which can be somewhat confusing. The "Prologue in Heaven" on pg 5-8 is from novelist Fellowes Kraft's last ms, and these pages can be inserted on pg 178 to get a contiguous reading. The passages on pg 12 and 81 are from Kraft's first novel, Bruno's Journey. Later narratives about Shakespeare are from his Bitten Apples. All other passages about Dee and Bruno are from Kraft's last ms.
We get glimpses of Pierce's childhood in Kentucky which are much expanded in the next book. He enjoyed the late 60s attending and teaching at Noate college in New York. He lived with Julie Rosengarten then. Because he could not get tenure he moved on to the much-hated Barnabus college, where he had a painful romance with the Gypsy. On a bus trip seeking a new position he encountered Spofford in the Faraway Hills and moved there the next year.
Crowley has self-referential fun with us on pg 180. Dee, in the Kraft ms, decrypts a line from Talbot/Kelley's book into two lines from our book Ægypt. The first is from the narrative of Pierce's three wishes. The second is from the Kraft ms itself, the first lines of our book Ægypt. It is made clear elsewhere that the Kraft ms, the book Pierce wants to write, and the series Crowley is writing are all, in some way, the same book.
The "rose" motif of Love & Sleep occurs to a lesser extent in Ægypt, and the "rising wind" is barely present, perhaps not significant. The author presents various permutations of "dogs, stars, stones, roses"; I believe this must be some sort of rebus, but I can't figure it out. He did something similar in Little, Big, and that puzzle was also beyond me.
The concept of the "passage time" which is so important in the second book is described clearly here: pg 90 and 312. Also, details about Boney and Kraft, previously ignored, now seem terrifically significant. Boney asks about the Elixir and maneuvers both Rosie and Pierce into investigating Kraft's research. The second book is very well set up on pg 331.
There are subtle but very distinct hints that other people are manipulating Pierce. Why does he move to Blackbury Jambs? Pierce says "love and money". At the end of his first visit Spofford says "You'll be back. I'll see to it." Later in the year, Pierce's old girl-friend, the Gypsy, reappears and gives him a pile of money in fulfillment of a failed "investment" (some sort of drug deal that went wrong). "How?" he asks and she says "Pierce, don't ask, okay. That's it, that's all. I'm done, done for good and ever." That same night Julie calls and tells him she has sold his book idea and the next day he gets a letter from Spofford describing an apartment for rent. Later, after Pierce moves, Spofford grins at him "as though still relishing a trick he had played on Pierce some time ago".
Now Pierce has enough money to quit his hated teaching job and work on his book. The "love" interest is also (inadvertently?) provided by Spofford who writes that "the Muchos have filed" and Pierce mistakenly thinks of Rose. And this brings him to the country. Spofford seems motivated by nothing more than friendship. But how can he pull strings that reach so deeply into Pierce's life? Who knew the Gypsy owed him money and who gave her a pile of it to deliver to Pierce without explanation? We suspect that Julie is involved because in the next book we discover she knows Beau and they are watching Pierce.
This suggests an extensive, wealthy, secret society of otherwise "normal" people who have fairly naive concepts of the occult. My hunch is the story will eventually produce real "Rosicrucians" or something similar. Pierce doesn't believe in them, but the Kraft ms describes Bruno's secret helpers who use the sign of Dee's "Monas" glyph. Dame Frances Yates is one of Crowley's best sources and she describes the origin of the society just after the time of Dee and Bruno in The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. The true illuminati are said to be powerful "healers", and this theme grows in the next book.
When first encountering the Kraft ms, Pierce understands that his whole life has been a preparation for reading it. The conspiracy couldn't be that extensive...could it?
We get glimpses of the rest of the ms: Kepler, Brahe, City of the Sun, Brothers of the Rose, Red Man and Green Lion, angel Madimi (very important in Love & Sleep), Death of the Kiss, a golem, wand of lignum vitæ, twelve minims of the best gold in the bottom of the crater. Pierce sees enough notes for two or three more books, which is just what we need to complete the twelve Houses.
Next to finally, although I do not think the author despairs of telling his story, we should not expect a happy ending. All of these Gnostics come to unhappy ends. Bruno is burned, Kelley falls to his death, Dee dies disgraced, Kraft dies poor, deaf and alone. "Hope" belongs to a different religion. I do not believe Pierce will escape this fate, no matter what magic he finds.
Finally, the ms has the "messenger" from beyond this universe carrying "wake up!" to someone unspecified. We know the message is real and that Pierce will receive it.
Vita(1): Life Lucrum(2): Money, possessions, jobs Fratres(3): family, communications Genitor(4): Nati(5): children, procreation, wills, legacies, inheritance Valetudo(6): Service, sickness, diseases (health?) Uxor(7): Wife Mors(8): death, the larger perspective Pietas(9): travel Carcer(12): Prison 5 - Prologue in Heaven - Kraft's last ms. This is the first time Talbot/Kelley and Dee look into the moleskin crystal - first angel appears after 1/4 hr. 6 - March 8, 1582 - noises in the house 7 - Madimi as an armed babe, holding the clear crystal - drop -> shout -> letter -> child 8 - the messenger bears a letter and a shout to awaken-- who? Pierce? - sails under the sign of Cancer 9 - Prologue on Earth 12 - Pierce, age 11 - reads from Kraft's Bruno's Journey 13 - March 8, 1952 14 - "I'm not from here". True: he's from NYC 15 - The Solitudes - I - VITA 19 - the wishes 21 - chalkokrotos 22 - I wish (3x) - "bronze-rustling". Is this the ker from Love & Sleep? 32 - Mt. Randa, view of 3 states, the monument to a man who had a religious vision. He started a religion. 39 - Under Saturn, a novel of Wallenstein 41 - Butterman's castle - decline of the Rasmussen fortune 46 - first mention of Rose, affair with Mike 47 - 3-way: Mike, Rose, Rosie 49 - Spofford in love with Mrs. Mucho 50 - Rosalind 59 - Olga tells Pierce's fortune: a project will take longer to complete than he suspects. His book? 65 - Pierce: I wish (2x) 67 - the colors of dates, numbers 69 - what was Axel's "special disability"? Did he tell the Army he was gay? - Pierce does not have a story of his own 73 - Barr: a history for each of us - is Barr leading Pierce to Ægypt? 77 - How had Pierce lost his vocation? His pearl of great price thrown away? 80 - 60s counterculture and medievalism 81 - Bruno's Journey, the inversion of the cosmos 84 - Julie Rosengarten teaching New Age journalism 85 - Pierce learns about precession 86 - living with Julie 87 - once history was circular and made of something other than time - the two types of history are as different and as related as dream and waking - circular history is made of stories. (This begins to sound like the elder Voegelin). 90 - Julie describes the passage time without using that expression 91 - dream the new world into being - need an account to describe the new world 92 - inside and outside not such exclusive categories 93 - mind over matter 94 - does the world have a plot? - Pierce and Julie take acid 96 - Spofford in a [VA?] hospital 97 - Beau waiting for starships - Pierce with Hyginus 100 - Miss Martha the tutor. Is Sister Mary Philomel missing from this story? 102 - Adult Pierce rediscovers Ægypt from his childhood - Ægyptians as great healers, doctors 103 - Gene Autry 104 - the scattered Ægyptians to regather in Adocentyn - Pierce no longer remembers the source of that name 105 - Pierce to become a seeker for his lost Ægypt, his own memories 108 - Hildy in foreign lands 113 - Boney seems to have had Pierce's first two wishes - Boney, re Kraft's fiction: "I never ask what's true in them". 114 - Kraft gay - what is Boney's secret sorrow? - Rosie has rolling papers in the jewelry box 124 - three naked women: dark, light, rosé. Hair color, or skin? 126 - Beau calls to Rosie, Pierce sees Rose 132 - Pierce and Rose visit the cottage - Rose hears a piano that Pierce does not 133 - when before had Pierce broken into a locked place that smelled so? 134 - Rose has some strange connection with the cottage, the bedroom. Is this coming from the future, perhaps beyond Love & Sleep? 137 - Pierce's dream of the master and the journey. The task was to forget. The country made of time, not of space. A small girl his keeper. Then the letter by which he remembers all. Then the journey back. 141 - II - LUCRUM 144 - Spofford: "You'll be back. I'll see to it." Does he have connections? - This is the second time Rosie nearly collides with Pierce. 146 - Rosie's old grief. Something with her father? 163 - How can Rosie charge Mike with adultery when she is having an affair with Spofford? Or is that secret? 167 - Thomistic notion: abuse of substance? 169 - Boney and Kraft plotted to steal Dee's obsidian mirror from the British Museum. Even if they were joking, this indicates Boney's interest. 170 - We presume this narration on Dr. Dee is from the Kraft ms. 174 - Talbot/Kelley's ears have been cut off. - Crime of coining -- or alchemy? - Talbot/Kelley accompanied by his demon - has a book he cannot read 176 - Talbot/Kelley claims the demon told him where to dig up the book in a monk's grave at Glastonbury. - According to the demon, "Glastonbury" is the key word in the message to Dee. - Stone jar of powder. - Talbot/Kelley knows his purpose was to bring these things to Dee. 177 - Reference to Shakespeare and the stone, but that episode was in another novel (Bitten Apples)! 178 - Talbot/Kelley instantly sees figures in the stone, although the prologue stated 15 min. - insert "Prologue in Heaven" here, pg 5-8 179 - Angelic encryption 180 - Dee wonders if the world is a fiction, an encrypted message - Crowley has self-referential fun with us here. Dee, in the Kraft ms, decrypts from Talbot/Kelley's book into two lines from our book Ægypt. The first is from the narrative of Pierce's wishes. The second is from the Kraft ms itself, the first lines of our book Ægypt. 182 - Pierce: "if this were a novel". Self-reference again. 186 - Pierce cannot find the Meade edition of Hermes T which Beau has in Love & Sleep. - The "English lady" is Dame Frances Yates. 188 - Julie is a mark, Pierce the smart. 192 - Rosicrucians - Pierce begins to suspect the passage time of the Renaissance 193 - Julie hasn't a clue 194 - Does Pierce believe that real magic once worked? Perhaps Julie knows him. - She has had experiences which confirm her faith. Healing? 195 - Act theory. From "In Blue". 198 - Julie's network of contacts. - Julie believes in the magic of desire. 200 - stones and roses - "Wake up" to be the message of Pierce's book 201 - Pierce, cynical about his book: "He would not be burned". Or will he? 206 - Rosie believes in astrology 207 - Lucrum: money, possessions, jobs 213 - Val's lodge once a whorehouse 215 - first three houses are the First Quarternary: dawn, spring, birth - Vita(1): Life 216 - Carcer(12): Prison - Valetudo(6): Service - Uxor(7): Wife 217 - Spofford: Aries. Rosie: Pisces(?). Hers is the oldest sign, his the youngest. 218 - Val: Rosie is crazier than she knows 222 - The Rasmussen Foundation seems to have "normal" interests - Rosie realizes Boney will soon die 223 - Does Boney bring Rosie into the Foundation so she will pursue the Kraft mystery? 224 - He wants her to learn about Kraft: his memoirs, his house. - Kraft practised an Art of Memory 225 - Beau says "they" (those above) want to keep him in prison. 228 - Pierce's reasons for moving to Blackbury Jambs: love and money. 232 - Pierce vows celibacy - Why does he have a mirror over his bed? He moved this from his city to his country place and reinstalled it. 232 - Phæton's Car = Chariots of the Gods - Worlds in Division = Worlds in Collision - Dawn of the Druids = Morning of the Magicians 234 - The Gypsy returns suddenly, repaying his "investment". "How?" he asks. She says: "Pierce, don't ask, okay. That's it, that's all. I'm done, done for good and ever." 237 - Julie sells Pierce's book idea. 239 - Letter from Spofford, describes an apartment for rent. Who had it before and why did they leave for the coast? 240 - The Muchos have filed. Pierce thinks Rose is Mrs Mucho and she is his "love" motivation. He should feel guilty about that. - Birthday, age 34. - Pierce finds these events to be powerful omens. 243 - Sir Thomas Browne in Hydriotaphia asked "What song did the Sirens sing?" and "What name did Achilles..." Robert Graves answered these questions in The White Goddess. 256 - The Gypsy runs a floating antique store. - Grammercy Park: is that the locked park in Little, Big? 258 - Beau's "trip". He sees the monument on Mt. Randa. 259 - What is the castle on Mt. Whirligig and why is Beau repelled? - the monument is an elephant with an obelisk on its back 264 - Rosie's 3-way 265 - Rose the other member - Rosie and Spofford at the summer party 269 - III - FRATRES 273 - Talbot/Kelley's demon dressed in a brown monk's robe. But: Giordano Bruno = Jordan Brown or "bruin" = brown bear 274 - Zodiac layed out around Glastonbury 277 - Talbot/Kelley's book tells how to make gold 278 - Talbot/Kelley hides the jar of powder 282 - Dee asks the angels: "Is the universe one thing?" - The angels hear the messenger coming through behind them. 287 - According to Love & Sleep, young Pierce's first Kraft book was The Werewolf of Prague, sent to him by his father. 288 - Pierce encounters Rose, but offends her by calling her "Mrs. Mucho". She does not remember him. 289 - Beau's lecture on the astral body. - The message from the stars is "wake up". 291 - Pierce again mistakes Rose for Rosie. Beau could have corrected him. - The heresy: Gnosticism. But what is Beau? Gnostic? Rosicrucian? 294 - The Author's Note is more self-referential fun, being the note to our book Ægypt. Crowley has written a book analogous to Pierce's. 297 - Kraft wants to write "one more special book". This must become the last ms. - Like Dee, Kraft could die without finishing his task. 299 - Ficino on planetary influences - Fludd on astrology - Vita: Life. Lucrum: possessions, money, jobs. Fratres: family, communications. Pietas(9): travel. Mors(8): death, the larger perspective. Carcer(12): Prison. 301 - Crowley, through Pierce, gives us the outline of the story. Explanation of the Houses will come late. - Bruno was in prison 9 years, never recanted. 302 - Rosie has not yet met Pierce. - Not his type. - Are both Rose and Rosie red-haired? - Turn-of-the-century houses, modest then, fabulous now. Ain't it the truth! 305 - Pierce, offered a job and meeting Boney, senses he is crossing a portal. 306 - Kraft's house seems haunted to Rosie. 307 - Kraft deaf and poor at the end. 309 - Kraft has PICATRIX. 310 - Pierce hears Kraft's (dead) dog when he holds the ms. - Epigraph by Novalis, passing the Grail like a stone. Passage time? - The start of the ms Prologue does not exactly match the version given at the beginning of our book Ægypt. - The name and date mentioned are Bruno 1564, from pg 313 following. - What is Pierce's childhood body-memory? The earlier Bruno book? 312 - Straightforward description of the passage time. - All passage times are visible to each other. - The people of the Elizabethan passage are dead or sleeping. Sleeping? 313 - Dominican robes are black and white, not brown. 316 - Stone, voice, star, dog, rose - Cicero, Second Rhetoric 321 - dog, stone, rose 325 - Bruno and Picatrix. Is this the same copy Kraft owned, the real thing hidden in the story? Implies Bruno destroyed it. Tossed it down the privy? 327 - City of Adocentyn 328 - What is the pun or rebus or palindrome Pierce has stumbled into? 329 - "Boney thinking thoughts Pierce could not imagine". - Coincidence between Kraft's and Pierce's books. 330 - To come: Kepler, Brahe, City of the Sun, Brothers of the Rose, Red Man and Green Lion, angel Madimi, Death of the Kiss, a golem, wand of lignum vitæ, twelve minims of the best gold in the bottom of the crater. 331 - Boney's interest in the elixir. - This page sets up the next book - Kraft, in the Giant Mountains once... 332 - Has Boney not read the ms? 333 - Kraft died 1970. - Why is Rosie attracted to Pierce? 338 - Bruno passes the Castel Sant'Angelo. Will that be his prison? 343 - Man bound up in Love and Sleep. - Gnostic account 346 - Bruno breaks with Christianity (in the Pope's library!) - Hermes: only evil angels will remain 349 - Who is this boy who helps Bruno? And who are the others? 353 - The curious figure on the ring is the Monas glyph (pg 357). 356 - Bruno as teacher resembles Pierce - Becoming: Heraclitus 357 - orgy? - Like Pierce: who was publishing these things newly? How did they know he needed them? - Monas glyph 359 - Rosie fetches the letters Boney will read in Love & Sleep. 362 - (and following pages). Bruno in the mountain pass. Outstanding passage. 368 - Secret helpers everywhere 369 - Meets Nostradamus. "In what country will my bones be buried?" "In no country." True: Bruno will be burned. 370 - Madimi (as a child) shows Talbot/Kelley and Dee an image of Bruno sailing the Channel. "Nothing now will ever be the same again." But in Love & Sleep she does not like him. 372 - St. Guinefort's School. 374 - A last wish: that the world might be different than it is. 375 - Spofford's trick: getting Pierce to move. How did he do that? 377 - Pierce discovers his error concerning Rose and Rosie. 378 - Rose and Spofford had a brief thing. 380 - Rose alcoholic? 382 - Rosie suicidal? 384 - Celibacy does not imply chastity for Pierce. - An inner life for Rose! The only such passage in two books! 385 - She would have a child in secret 387 - Pierce finishes the ms - His whole life a preparation to read this book. 388 - Rosicrucians, other illuminati. Pierce doesn't believe in secret societies. - Enough notes for another two or three books. Just what we need! 390 - dogs, stars, stones, roses - Pierce suspects this is a passage time but despairs of it.