Ægypt, by John Crowley

Bantam 1987.

[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.

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These are notes I made for this review on third reading of Ægypt, after reading Love & Sleep. All page numbers refer to the first hardbound edition.
Vita(1): Life
Lucrum(2): Money, possessions, jobs
Fratres(3): family, communications
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 
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 
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 
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 
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 
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 
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 
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 
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 
     -  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 
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. 
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" 
     -  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 
     -  Kraft practised an Art of Memory
225  -  Beau says "they" (those above) want to keep him in 
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 
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 
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 
     -  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 
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 
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? 
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 
     -  The name and date mentioned are Bruno 1564, from pg 313 
     -  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 
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 
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 
353  -  The curious figure on the ring is the Monas glyph (pg 
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 
375  -  Spofford's trick: getting Pierce to move. How did he do 
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 
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 

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