When I was a child in the 1960s, I was fascinated by Loch Ness and by the stories of the monster that was said to live in its murky depths. One of my uncles, who lived in Scotland, used to bring me a paperback or a newspaper clipping dealing with this enigma whenever he came to visit me in south Wales, so I remain extremely grateful to this generous-spirited man for indulging me and thereby nurturing my interest in exotic subject matter.
It wasn’t long before I learned of another aspect of Loch Ness that captured my imagination and this was Boleskine House, which had once been the home of the infamous writer and occultist Aleister Crowley. I imagine that this man’s name will either mean nothing to you, or else it will be instantly recognisable, while if you’re familiar with Crowley, the chances are that you’ll either loathe him or else harbour some degree of admiration for all the many things he accomplished during his life.
I fall into the latter category and the one aspect of this notorious man that most impressed me was the fact that the writer Dennis Wheatley once described Crowley as the most fascinating conversationalist he had ever met, which was praise indeed coming from Wheatley, who had met all manner of luminaries over the course of his long life. I can clearly remember thinking at the time that as I had no intention of living as a recluse, the aim of becoming a renowned conversationalist was a useful and noble ambition, so I’m indebted to Mr Crowley for planting what was to prove a fertile seed in my formative years.
I’ve met, corresponded and sometimes worked with scores of eminent men and women in my time, but one of the undoubted highlights was speaking at length with the late, great Colin Wilson and his wife at their secluded home in Cornwall some years ago. Colin Wilson generously gave me a signed copy of his book on Aleister Crowley (see above), so this is a happy memory for me and it goes a long way towards negating the sorrow I felt when I learned of the destruction by fire of Boleskine House, Crowley’s one-time home.
It was a place I had long hoped to visit, but I realise that its loss will mean little if anything to the vast majority of those who visit this site. To put the matter into some perspective, I had also long dreamed of visiting Palmyra, the “Venice of the Sands” in Syria, but the primitives who comprise Isis have removed this treasure from the reach of myself and from all humanity and they will doubtless continue in this joyless, nihilistic vein until they in their turn eventually cease to exist.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley.