The drawing commonly referred to as “LAM” has been thought for decades to be a drawing of an entity Aleister Crowley contacted around 1918. Many people, beginning with Kenneth Grant, have pointed out that it has a similar appearance to the images of the so-called “Grey” aliens which started to crop up in popular culture in the 1960s. But is there any good reason to believe this?
Here at AC2012, we enjoy occasionally exploring the myths and legends about Aleister Crowley and considering whether they have any basis in reality. See for example our Top Ten Crowley Myths Busted by AC2012, and our Top Ten Myths about Aleister Crowley which are Actually True.
In an interview on Dateline Zero, AC2012 creator Joseph Thiebes even said, “I don’t know a lot about that … what I do know is that [Aleister Crowley] drew that image of LAM, which was a being that he contacted through ritual magick … the image is striking … looks exactly like what we now know of as a ‘Grey.’ So some people have pointed to this image, and said that it’s evidence that he may have been the first to contact these alien beings, if they exist. Hard to say, you know, one way or the other. If you look at the blog on AC2012, you can see that image and it’s, um, yeah, come to your own conclusions. It’s pretty striking.”
Let’s consider the possibility, however, that this is a psychic self-portrait rather than an alien being that Aleister Crowley contacted.
LAM I AM Exhibit A: Aleister Crowley’s Diary and Letters
Aleister Crowley was meticulous about recording his magical operations. A major part of his work was to make magick more “scientific.” He would have certainly recorded any contact with any entity, but does not mention anything of the sort at any time near the time of this drawing. Crowley actually refers to the drawing as “The Lama,” which would be a proper title for a spiritual leader like Crowley.
Kenneth Grant coveted the drawing and Aleister Crowley told him that he could have it if he could correctly guess the title. In response to Grant’s first “guess,” which Crowley described as a “sermon,” Crowley wrote the following to Grant:
“This is a terrible defect of your outlook on life, you cannot be content with the simplicity of reality and fact; you have to go off into a pipe-dream.”
LAM I AM Exhibit B: Other Self-Portraits
Aleister Crowley has two other self-portraits where he is drawn with an enlarged head, peculiar eyes, and pronounced brow. Actually, these other self-portraits look just as much like aliens as “The Lama” does.
LAM I AM Exhibit C: The Way
Aleister Crowley’s note under the portrait:
Lam is the Tibetan word for Way or Path, and Lama is He who Goeth, the specific title of the Gods of Egypt, the Treader of the Path, in Buddhistic phraseology.
What can this mean?
Now just hold on one minute. There are other places where Crowley talks about “He who Goeth,” “the Way,” and other similar phrasing. Does he suggest anywhere that the Tibetan word for Way or Path might have something to do with an alien entity? Or perhaps it is more to do with an inward journey?
Let’s look at a few of these quotations where these phrases come up in the works of Aleister Crowley. Relevant phrases are in boldface.
In the climax from Crowley’s important play, “The Ship,” he writes:
I am that I am, the flame / Hidden in the sacred ark. / I am the unspoken name / I the unbegotten spark. / I am He that ever goeth, / Being in myself the Way; / Known, that yet no mortal knoweth, / Shewn, that yet no mortal sheweth, / I, the child of night and day. / I am never-dying youth. / I am Love, and I am Truth. / I am the creating Word, I the author of the aeon…”
In Aleister Crowley’s book entitled The Heart of the Master we find:
Now, this great Formula being fulfilled, and turned into abomination, this Lion came forth to proclaim the Aeon of Horus, the crowned and conquering child, who dieth not, nor is reborn, but goeth radiant ever upon His Way. Even so goeth the Sun: for as it is now known that night is but the shadow of the Earth, so Death is but the shadow of the Body, that veileth his Light from its bearer.
In Liber Aleph, we find the following:
Understand thou this, o my Son, as I take leave of thee in this Epistle, that the Summit of Wisdom is the opening of the Way that leadeth unto the Crown and Essence of all, to the Soul of the Child Horus, the Lord of the Æon. This Way is the Path of the Pure Fool.
Later in the same text, we find:
Recall, O my Son, the Fable of the Hebrews, which they brought from the City Babylon, how Nebuchadnezzar the Great King, being afflicted in his Spirit, did depart from among Men for Seven Years’ space, eating Grass as doth an Ox. Now this Ox is the letter Aleph, and is that Atu of Thoth whose number is Zero … also it is called the Fool, which is Parsifal, “der reine Thor,” and so referreth to him that walketh in the Way of the Tao.
There are more, but we don’t want to overload this post with quotes.
LAM I AM Exhibit D: The Voice of the Silence
This drawing doesn’t appear as the frontispiece to a book on evoking alien entities. It appears instead at the front of Crowley’s commentary on H. P. Blavatsky’s “The Voice of the Silence,” published in The Equinox III, no. I.
“In the Blue Equinox, Crowley correctly uses the Tibetan term ‘Lam’, meaning ‘path’ or ‘way’, in the caption to the frontispiece to The Voice of the Silence. He does not use it as a name. Nor does ‘Lam’ occur as a name of any specific entity with which he was in contact in the surviving record of the Amalantrah Working.” — Gary Dickinson, “The Mask of Lam.”
At the time of publication, Crowley was working to persuade the Theosophical Society that he (and not some alien) was their prophesied “World Teacher.” Or, one might say, he was presenting himself as a Tibetan “Lama” to the organization which regarded Tibet as the location where the “Masters of the Ancient Wisdom” resided.
The Work of our Sister Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was inaugurated at the very season of the Birth on Earth of our Brother the Master whose Word is Thelema … For it was most needful to prepare His Way that He might proclaim His Law in every land that is upon the surface of the Earth.
“Far from being a ‘little green man’, let alone a ‘grey’ one, ‘Lam’ emerges as an adept of the Yellow School.” — Gary Dickinson, writing about his online exhibit, “Seven Masks.”
While he does not directly state that LAM is a psychic self-portrait, and anything is certainly possible (even aliens!), we feel that the preponderance of evidence leans toward a depiction of Crowley’s “Secret Self,” while there is comparatively zero evidence for the idea that it is a drawing of an alien entity.