The Secret Door
Thoughts on Thelema

Who Was Aiwaz? The Strange Story of Samuel Jacobs and Aleister Crowley

Cairo 1904, the Writing of the Book of the Law (© Mitchellnoite)

The first time that the name of Aiwaz (or Aiwass, as Crowley spelled it) was heard by Aleister Crowley was in March 1904, when his wife, Rose Edith Crowley née Kelly, spontaneously entered a state of trance. It is often forgotten that it was not Aleister Crowley who sought out the Cairo Working. It was an unknown intelligence communicating itself through the spontaneous mediumship of Rose that called Crowley to fulfil the role of the Beast 666, with which he had identified himself both in his childhood imaginings and in his poetry. It was Rose who told Crowley that the source of the cryptic messages concerning the Child, Osiris, Horus, the Equinox of the Gods, Christian Rosy [sic] Cross, and the Solar Force was one Aiwaz. Years later, Crowley would state that he had never heard this name before. This is probably true. Aiwaz (Aiwass is a significant misspelling) is very rare. One search showed that only 140 individuals have this surname, mostly in Pakistan. There are also numerous variations (e.g., Aaiwaz, Aiwayz, Iwaz, etc.). It is the 1,487,714th most popular surname in the world, though today, with the advent of social media, it is easier to find a few Aiwazs on Facebook!

Rose instructed Crowley to sit at his writing desk at 12 noon on Friday, April 8, 1904[1] and the next two days and to write down what he heard. He obeyed, armed with paper and fountain pen (it was a Swan quill dip pen), and at 12 noon precisely he heard a voice and had a vivid impression of a ghost-like figure behind his left shoulder. Crowley described the voice as passionate, deep, musical, expressive, tenor or baritone. Crowley found the voice “startling and uncanny” because it was completely devoid of any accent, and therefore inhuman sounding. Crowley also felt the voice as an odd vibration in his heart.

The ghost-like figure was tall, dark, a little older than Crowley himself (Crowley was all of 28), personable, athletic, aristocratic, and Persian-Assyrian in appearance, “with a face like a savage king” (this was a psychic impression; at no time did Crowley turn and look at the figure). In Crowley’s vision the figure wore a veil or mask across his eyes.

Image result for aiwass

© DeviantArt

Aiwaz is identified as the speaker in the seventh verse of the first chapter of the Book of the Law, as the subsequent dictation came to be called: “Behold! it is revealed by Aiwass the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat.” Aiwaz refers to himself in the third person. Whereas the physical voice of the Book of the Law is that of Aiwaz, he himself is the medium of the three ultimate cosmic beings: Nuit, the Egyptian goddess of the sky; Hadit, the winged solar disk; and Horus, the avenging son of Isis and Osiris. Aiwaz says only that he is the “minister.” A minister is both a minor priest (or a priest’s servant) and a high officer of the Crown (or the state). Originally, “to minister” is to serve food or drink. Aiwaz’ superior is Hoor-paar-kraat (Eg.  Har-pa-khered, Heru-pa-khered; Gk. Harpokrates, lit. “Horus the Child”). Harpokrates, the god of silence, is represented as a small boy with his finger pressed to his lips. In fact, the voice of Aiwaz himself is never heard in the Book of the Law. He is perfectly inscrutable. He channels the divine, but in himself he is perfectly silent.

At first Crowley interpreted the Cairo Working, as he called it, as an astral vision and the Book of the Law an automatic writing. Crowley, who intensely disliked spiritualism, was embarrassed by the Book of the Law and distanced himself from it, but, clearly, it also fascinated him. He doodled on the cover page of the Book. There is a large stain on the first page of the third chapter. He took the Cairo Working seriously enough, however, to inform S.L. Mathers, the Chief of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, that a New Æon had been proclaimed with Crowley to supplant Mathers as the Head of the Order. Mathers’s reply, if he wrote one, is not preserved as far as I know. After some preliminary cabalistic analyses, Crowley ruminated whether to include the Book in his collected works, then promptly lost the manuscript.

Image result for liber al vel legis

Crowley carried on with his spiritual work without any further reference to the Book of the Law. By this time he was no longer merely a magician, he was a mystic, seeking personal communion with his own Godhood. He invoked his Holy Guardian Angel. He crossed the “Abyss” and attained the grade of Magister Templi (Master of the Temple) of the A∴A∴ or Silver Star. He founded the Order of the A∴A∴ without reference to the Cairo Working or the Book of the Law, based rather on his experiences in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Yoga, Buddhism, and metaphysical philosophy that he synthesized in his philosophy of “Crowleyanity” and Scientific Illuminism, in 1908–09.[2] On this system, Crowley superimposed the memorization of the Holy Books (the Book of the Law itself was memorized in part in the grade of Zelator). The only specifically “thelemic” task of the Great White Brotherhood is Liber V, the Ritual of the Mark of the Beast, in the grade of Philosophus. “Sex magick” is also Thelemic, of course, though not exclusively so. One finds it in the Kalachakra and in many other places as well. This was later grafted onto the original system in Magick in Theory and Practice, especially the grades of Zelator, Philosophus, and Adeptus Within in connection with the formula of the Rosy Cross in the College of the Holy Ghost and Devotion to the Order. Thus, the final system of the A∴A∴ includes both the Law of Thelema and the Supreme Secret of the O.T.O., without being subordinate to either. The central tasks of the Great White Brotherhood are simply the underlying universals of the Great Work attributed to the Cabalistic Tree of Life (Etz Chayim).

The story of Crowley’s conversion to his own religion of Thelema – or, rather, the religion that had been revealed to him as the apotheosis of his own work – would take us too far afield to repeat here. Suffice to say that Crowley came to realize the significance of the Cairo Working only after he crossed the Abyss, and rededicated his life to the promulgation of the Law of Thelema in June 1909, more than five years after the original event.

In the course of his subsequent career Crowley explained the identity of Aiwaz in different ways, not necessarily mutually exclusive. Crowley identified Hoor-paar-kraat, the silent child-god of the sun, with the True Self, which would make Aiwaz the “minor” of the True Self, the Holy Guardian Angel, interior Genius, or “daemon.”[3] Whereas the True Self is the being of the self and therefore utterly unknowable, the Genius is the True Will, ultimately one with the True Self, the dynamic/kinetic “going” in its ultimate and most essential aspect, the realization of which confers the essential empowerment of the grade of Major Adept of the Inner College of the Great White Brotherhood. In the biographical note to The Book of Thoth Crowley states that he attained this grade in April 1904. More generally, Crowley identified Aiwaz with the libido, more in the Jungian sense of “psychic energy” than in the Freudian, strictly sexual sense. Although Crowley certainly regarded Aiwaz as both a magical formula and an individual, at no time did Crowley consider that Aiwaz might be the proper name of a man. Crowley thought the word was an artificial cabalistic construction like ABRAHADABRA or BABALON. 


In 1918, Crowley was working in New York City as the editor of a popular magazine, The International, owned by German businessman George Sylvester Viereck. At the same time, he was performing a series of magical rites with his “scarlet woman,” Roddie Minor. These operations consisted of interviews with a preterhuman intelligence that called itself Amalantrah,[4] through the mediumship of Roddie. These deeply obscure interviews seemed to continue themes and symbols that had at first appeared during a previous series of operations, conducted eight years before, with a different woman, Mary d’Este Sturges, the secretary of noted dancer Isadora Duncan, in a rented villa in Italy. These efforts to contact preterhuman intelligences were doubtless influenced by the Cairo Working. The working with Mary with an entity that called itself Ab-ul-Diz resulted in the writing of Book Four, Crowley’s celebrated classic in four parts on Meditation (Yoga), Magic, and the Cairo Working. Book Four, Part III – Magick in Theory and Practice – is widely regarded as Crowley’s magnum opus, and has been described as a postmodernist classic.

jacobs-picDuring the evening of Sunday, February 24 at 9:30 p.m.[5] Crowley was trying to get the Hebrew spelling of the Greek ΘΗΡΙΟΝ. Crowley wanted a phonetic equivalent transliteration that added up to 666. The answer that Amanlantrah gave was wrong, but seemed to imply or allude to a simpler answer that eluded Crowley. Crowley claims that he could not find a suitable transliteration, even though the solution is only two steps removed from a direct literal rendering of the Greek letters. What is even more surprising is that on the following Tuesday Crowley found a letter at his office from a reader of The International.  The letter was not addressed to Crowley himself, but to Viereck, the owner of The International, who had put the letter, received on Monday, on Crowley’s desk for reply. The letter, which survives in the Warburg collection in London, was essentially a fan letter and the writer a fan of the magazine and a reader of Crowley’s. He had read Crowley’s article in which he had stated that the Hebrew spelling of ΘΗΡΙΟΝ was unknown. The writer had tried his hand at the puzzle and, not surprisingly, had found the solution in the letters ריונ. Crowley was already intrigued when he read the Americanized signature of the writer: Samuel Aiwaz Jacobs (Shmuel [Samuel] bar Aiwaz [“son of Aiwaz”] bie Yackou de Sherabad). Then he noticed the date of the letter. It was February 24, 1918, the exact date of the interview with Amalantrah in which he had tried to obtain the Hebrew spelling.

Crowley wrote to Mr. Jacobs and asked him for the Hebrew spelling of Aiwaz. Jacob’s reply, עיוז, struck him to the core. The letters added up to 93, the number of Thelema, the key number of the Book of the Law!

The exact extent of Crowley’s subsequent communication with Samuel Aiwaz Jacobs is unclear. Jacobs, an expert in metaphysical verse, had clearly read Crowley with deep attention. In 1918 America, it was surely unusual in the extreme, if not unknown, for anyone to write positively about the Antichrist! In fact, after Crowley left New York City his book, The Blue Equinox, created a scandal in which Crowley’s publisher was accused of being a satanist. Jacobs subsequently corresponded with Charles Stansfeld Jones, Crowley’s American representative, in August 1918, but there is no evidence he joined either the O.T.O. or the A∴A∴. At some point Jacobs shared with Crowley Jacobs’s theory that Aiwaz was the proper name of the god of the Yezidis (in a 1929 interview Jacobs himself identified the name “Aiwaz” with Satan). Based on the scholarship of the time, it was believed that the Yezidis, a Kurdish people located in northern Iraq, worshipped a primitive form of Satan. This became the basis of Crowley’s subsequent identification of Aiwaz with Satan in Magick in Theory and Practice, especially in “Liber Samekh” in the Appendix, which in turn he identified with the Egyptian god Set, the enemy of Horus (the conflict between Horus and Set is, mystically interpreted, two sides of the same coin). Jacobs and Crowley believed that Yezidism, as the religion of the Yezidis is called, combines traditional Sumerian beliefs with Islamic Sufi heresies (an unpopular theory today). According to Yezidi belief, Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, is the chief of seven Angels that are set over the world by God. His other name is Shaitan or Shaytan. The Yezidi belief system is reminiscent of the Gnostic Nag Hammadi scriptures. Like the Gnostic Sethians, the Yezidis identify the disobedience of Satan as an enlightened act. The Yezidis follow the Koran, which states that Satan was cast down by God for refusing to submit to man. Like some Sufis, the Yezidis believe that God’s command was a test, and only Iblis understood this. In fact, God was testing the angel’s love of him. Like the adherents of the Romanian Iron Guard, Iblis was willing to disobey God and endure hell itself rather than give up his love of God and submission to the Highest. Thus, Iblis is the true Muslim.

For his part, Crowley referred to Jacobs as a “Brother.” This has been taken to mean that Crowley recognized Jacobs as a Brother of the Great White Brotherhood, i.e., a Secret Chief, in which case Crowley’s statement in The Equinox of the Gods that he has seen Aiwaz and other Secret Chiefs in person may refer to Jacobs, although there is no evidence that the two ever actually met. Jacobs may also have been a fellow Freemason. Crowley came to identify Aiwaz as an Ipsissimus of the Great White Brotherhood, and the Secret Chief that is responsible for the initiation of the Earth during the current cycle of the New Æon.


Samuel Aiwaz Jacobs (1890/91–1971), Persian-Assyrian by birth, was an American printer, typographer, compiler, and poet who founded the Golden Eagle Press in the 1920s in Mount Vernon, New York.  Jacobs became the typesetter and press agent of e e cummings (it was Jacobs who introduced the lower-case display of cummings’s name), and also designed books for Covici Friede, New Directions, Oxford University Press, and Dutton. He also designed two original typefaces and was an authority on metaphysical verse. He produced many books for his own and other presses, including a fine edition of Chaucer. Jacobs was clearly influenced by libertarian notions similar to those of Aleister Crowley, as shown in the following quotation:

To those of you who will begin, as I did, at an early age to be interested in creative effort, I have a word or two to say: Follow no one. Only you can lead yourself. Be open-minded and ready to reject every extraneous influence. Use your own. Talk is cheap; let others talk. Pay no attention to them or to me. Shun them and me with your self-discipline. Value your freedom from the shackles of the strait jacket. A rose is a rose regardless of its position on the bush. Approach your line of activity as an individual. Be independent. There is but one law to obey, the law of freedom: and obedience to that law is liberty.

Although Jacobs (1890/91-1971) outlived Crowley by 24 years, it is not known if anyone ever asked him about Aleister Crowley. In 1904, he was about 14 years old.[6]

Jacobs is remembered today as an early pioneer of the research into a universal script. Jacobs’s fascination with alphabets eerily echoes Aiwaz’ references to the mysteries of the letters and the words in the Book of the Law. According to Eden Naby, “Jacobs, living absorbed in letters from his youth…, may have had a strong interest in ‘elm al-oruf, that is, the science of interpreting letters and their numerical values, whether or not he also studied the practice, derived from it, of magic ‘based on the occult properties of the letters of the alphabet and of the divine and angelic names which they form.’”[7] His papers are catalogued in the Philip Kaplan Collection of S.A. Jacobs (1950–1958) at the Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Centre. His papers also reveal an interest in acoustics and in Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, so perhaps he was not as savage as the Book of the Law seems to imply.


[1] Interestingly, April 8 is the birthday of the Buddha according to the Japanese tradition and is probably closer to his actual birthday than the tradition that he was born in mid-May. 1904 is the year in which the British invaded Tibet, the home of Vajrayana Buddhism. The British assaulted Red Idol Gorge on April 9, 1904, on the original second feast day of AL, en route to Gyantse, which they reached on April 11. Days of wrath indeed!

[2] Tobias Churton, Aleister Crowley: The Biography, p. 140.

[3] In the Ab-ul-Diz Working Crowley was informed that he was the “demon” of the æon, and his age the number of Chaos (1400). More, properly, את is a contracted form of אות, “sign,” indicative of the accusative tense. Crowley also glosses this word as “the” or “Essence” (401), “the sum and essence of all, conceived as One.” See Sepher Sephiroth, Liber LVIII, and John Symonds, The Great Beast, pp.  157, 171. Contrary to Symonds’s rather negative interpretation, the connotation of the word “demon” (daemon or daimon) is not necessarily pejorative. Ab-ul-Diz also identifies Perdurabo with the number 65, Adonai or the “Holy Guardian Angel,” “the most spiritual form of force.”

[4] The nature of this being is curious. In her first vision, Roddie describes a candlestick that breaks off at the stem, becoming a crown: “The crown floated in the air, tilted at a slight angle; and a circle, which was a halo, came down from heaven and dropped into the crown. In the center a wand came, and then it all hovered above the candlestick with a veil round it. The veil in some ways appeared as rays of light” (italics added). Many years later noted astronomer, computer scientist, and UFOlogist Jacques Vallée theorized that descriptions like this constitute the historical basis of the UFO phenomenon in his book, Passport to Magonia (cf. C.G. Jung, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies). Roddie’s vision was obtained with the assistance of opium. UFO experiences are also reported by people who take ayahuasca and other psychedelics. Vallée does not, however, believe that UFOs are extraterrestrial. Another interesting comparison with UFOs, also noted by Vallée, is that Amalantrah/UFOs often communicate using symbolic allusions, often obscure and complex, rather than “words,” such as one might expect from an “alien” or “præterhuman” intelligence that does not necessarily communicate in English or even in language as we understand it. The symbolic level of consciousness or sentience is prelinquistic; perhaps it is ontologically primordial (see Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, 2 vols.).

[5] In his Confessions Crowley says that this was a Saturday. Elsewhere he says that this incident occurred in January. However, the correct date and time are given in Magick in Theory and Practice, p. 258.

[6] Symonds unaccountably ignores the entire Jacobs episode in his biography of Crowley. Since Jacobs was still alive when The Great Beast was first published in 1952, Symonds missed an exceptional opportunity to interview Jacobs on his relations with Crowley, additional details of which we will probably never know.

[7] Jacobs, Samuel Aiwaz.



The Turkish word that is written in the Latin alphabet of modern Turkish as ayvaz occurs widely as a given name, a surname (or a component of one), and a component of place names. Most of the variant forms are (or were formerly) written with the Arabic letter ḍād; and Turkish dictionaries derive the word from one and the same Arabic common noun. Exceptions, including a form in Arabic script that agrees with S. A. Jacobs’ Neo-Aramaic spelling in using letter zāy, are noted below (in [3]). The three Turkish forms whose spellings incorporate  ʿ – w – ḍ  of the Arabic root are as follows.

(1) Turkish /ivaz/. The Ottoman words written ʿivaż and plural aʿvāż (Redhouse, p. 1328) exactly reproduce the spellings and meaning of Arabic ʿiwaḍ (عوض), pl. aʿwāḍ (اعواض), basically “substitute” (Lane, p. 2197) and extending to “something in exchange or as compensation” (Barthélemy, II, p. 562; Kieffer and Bianchi, II, p. 296; for its use as a technical term in Islamic law, see Linant de Bellefonds). The corresponding name is attested historically—e.g., the soldier Hacı İvaz Paşa (حاجی عوض پاشا, d. 1429; Özcan); a 17th-century Safavid governor, ʿIvaz Beg (Matthee, p. 61); and a Turkmen Ivaz Beg, father of the khan of Khiva, İltüzer (r. 1804-06; Saray). The name is also familiar in Turkish literature. Hacı İvaz (= Hacivat; perhaps inspired by the historical Hacı İvaz) is a protagonist, with Karagöz, in the Turkish shadow puppet plays (see, e.g., Arvas). Not surprisingly, Ivaz also occurs in place of Ayvaz (see [2], below) in the Köroǧlu epic, which is found across the entire range of Turkish dialects: P. Naili (p. 40) distinguished three main lines of the literary tradition: Anatolian, Azeri (in Azerbaijan), and Turkmen (in Khorasan).

(2) Turkish /ayvaz/. The Ottoman Turkish term ayvaz (عیوض) was a title applied to non-Muslim (also to Kurdish) household servants and functionaries (Lewis, based on Siyavuşgil). Š. Aksoy (p. 60) found a dialect version of the term noted in (1), above, as /ayvaz/ in southern Turkey bordering Syria.  As a name, the word also is seen latinized as Eyvaz, Eywaz, Eyvez. A well-known example in Turkish literature is the handsome youth Ayvaz, companion of the bandit poet Köroğlu (see, e.g., Sand, tr., p. 9 and ff.). “One of the most common motifs of the Köroğlu epic is the story of Ayvaz (Ivaz Han, Ivaz)” (Naili, p. 44). In other occurrences, a Persian family name ʿEyvaż-zāda (عیوض زاده) is commonly anglicized as Eyvazzadeh; the Armenian family name is Aivazian (see, e.g., in the Ottoman period, Wharton, p. 91). Kurdish Eyvaz in Cyrillic is: Эйваз. Place names include present-day Ayvazlar in northwest Turkey and ʿEyvażlu (عیوضلو), north of Ardabil, in Iran.

(3) Turkish /ayvāz/.  A dictionary form of the noun marks initial a- explicitly, with the diacritic fatḥa (عیواض; Sāmi, p. 958). In Arabic script, the Azeri name ʿEyvāż (e.g., the contemporary Republic of Azerbaijan poet, Yetim Eyvaz) likewise is written in literary form as عیواض, as well as in phonemic form, ʾywʾz (ایواز, for which see also the Köroǧlu character in Alizade, ed., pp. 41 ff.). A. Barthelemy (p. 562) cites an Arabic version  of the abovementioned literary character Hacı İvaz in a dialect form /ēwāz/, here spelled with letter zā (ʿywẓ,  عیواظ). For the lengthening of –a- in the name, EIr suggests possible analogical influence of names such as (in Turkish) ʿİyāż and İyās.

(from Naby, Eden. See References, below.)



“Bardar.” The Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920-1925. Greenwich Village Bookshop.

Brower, Steven. “Discovering E.E. Cummings’ ‘Personal Persian typesetter’ in the AIGA Design Archives.” March 31, 2016. Design History 101.

Churton, Tobias. Aleister Crowley: The Biography – Spiritual Revolutionary, Romantic Explorer, Occult Master and Spy. London: Watkins Publishing, 2011.

Crowley, Aleister. “The Amalantrah Working (Liber XCVII).”

———. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography. Ed. John Symonds and Kenneth Grant. 1969; rpt. London: Arkana-Penguin, 1979.

———. Magick in Theory and Practice. 1929; [rpt. c. 1961?]: New York: Castle Books.

———. The Revival of Magick and Other Essays. Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Publications, 1998.


Kaczynski, Richard. Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley. Rev. ed. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2010.

Naby, Eden. “JACOBS, SAMUEL AIWAZ.” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016.

Rumble, Walker. “The Persian Typesetter: S.A. Jacobs, E.E. Cummings, and the Golden Eagle Press.” Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society. Fall 2013.

———. “Reclaiming S.A. Jacobs: Polytype, Golden Eagle, and Typographic Modernism.” March 20, 2014. American Printing History Association.

Symonds, John. The Great Beast: The Life and Magick of Aleister Crowley. Rev. ed. Frogmore, UK: Mayflower, 1973.

%d bloggers like this: