Voices: Steffen Dix, Aleister Crowley, Luís Miguel Nogueira Rosa Dias, Jerónimo Pizarro, José Filipe Costa and Sofia Saldanha
Pessoa, Fernando, “Her very being surprises.”, A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems, Edited and Translated by Richard Zenith. London, Penguin Books, 2006, p. 310.
O Mistério da Boca do Inferno - O encontro entre o Poeta Fernando Pessoa e o Mago Aleister Crowley. Victor Belém. Lisboa. Casa Fernando Pessoa, 1995. - .Excerto da reportagem de Augusto Ferreira Gomes. in O Notícias Ilustrado . Lisboa: 5-10-1930.
* Free translation by Eugénia Brito
9. Mouth of Hell
Sofia: You should now walk down Rua Augusta towards Terreiro do Paço. In 1929 Fernando Pessoa is reading the first volume of the Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Crowley was a notorious British magician and occultist.
Steffen Dix: He was acquainted with several famous figures. He was in contact with Aldous Huxley, with Albert Einstein. He prepared an exhibition in Berlin with some great German modernists, and in this sense Crowley was a very international person, who lived between Berlin, London and Paris and made his great journeys, while Pessoa lived in that little downtown Lisbon. And in this sense there couldn’t be a greater contrast than Crowley and Pessoa.
Aleister Crowley voice recording
Aleister Crowley: In the Years of the Primal Course, in the dawn of terrestrial birth, Man mastered the mammoth and horse, and Man was the Lord of the Earth.
Sofia: The press dubbed Crowley "the wickedest man in the world." He identified himself as the antichrist and he called himself "The Beast 666". On December the 4th, 1929 Fernando Pessoa wrote to Crowley's publisher, Mandrake Press. It was to correct a mistake in the magician's astrological chart.
Steffen Dix: And he asked if the publisher could speak to Crowley personally and the publisher did so. Then Crowley got in touch, maybe he found some interest in Pessoa and he was fairly quick to state that he was coming to Portugal.
Sofia: This started a correspondence that led to a meeting between Pessoa and Crowley on the 2nd of September 1930 in Lisbon.
Steffen Dix: At that time, Crowley was going through great personal troubles, he was getting a divorce, he had financial problems and he had met in Berlin a young German artist, Hanni Jaeger. He wanted to flee with Hanni Jaeger to a place, let's say a neutral place where he was far from his personal problems.
Sofia: Also going through financial trouble was Mandrake Press and they were looking for a funder.
Steffen Dix: It is curious that they thought that Pessoa would be a person capable of paying something and Pessoa himself showed a certain innocence here, he was really considering the possibility of publishing some Portuguese authors in England and he thought of course of himself. There was a project, it is a pity that it didn’t work, a draft of some of Pessoa's poems with the afterword or preface by Aleister Crowley.
Sofia: Imagine this street in 1930. It was not a pedestrian street. Fernando Pessoa worked here. Rua Augusta buzzed with commerce. It was always like that. Previously wool and silk merchants had traded here.
Steffen Dix: When they were strolling here in Lisbon, that very urban, cosmopolitan couple in this small provincial town, where practically all the women were dressed in black, with skirts down to the ground, maybe the Portuguese at this time were considering Crowley and Hanni Jaeger very exotic and Crowley and Jaeger considered the Portuguese very exotic too. Crowley and Hanni Jaeger spent only one night in Lisbon and then went straight to Cascais or Estoril. The most important thing to Crowley was the beach and the sun.
Sofia: Pessoa paid them a visit. And a poem remains from that time which is considered Fernando Pessoa’s most erotic.
Fernando Pessoa: She entices like a boat,
Or like an orange, so sweet.
When, my God, will I sail?
When, O hunger, will I eat?
Sex moan, waves
Steffen Dix: Maybe Pessoa witnessed a session of sexual magic between the two, I don’t know. Pessoa had a certain fascination for Hanni Jaeger, of course.
Luís Miguel Rosa Dias: However, Aleister Crowley had one, well an overly active daydream, they did something sexual, they were probably too loud, in such a way that the manager evicted the couple from the hotel.
Sofia: Or maybe the reason for the eviction was simply because Crowley and Hanni did not have money to pay for the hotel bill.
Luís Miguel Rosa Dias: The girl was very impressed by this, she went to the American embassy and was able to speak to the ambassador, and so he arranged for her to return to Berlin. Aleister Crowley was distressed because he couldn’t find her and so he made a huge fuss about it.
Sofia: And that was when, with the help of Fernando Pessoa, he simulated the suicide in Boca do Inferno. Supposedly a suicide note was found under a cigarette case, allegedly written by Crowley.
Aleister Crowley: L.G.P.
Year 14, Sun in Libra
I cannot live without you. The other "Mouth of Hell" will catch me - it won’t be as
hot as yours.
Tu LiYu. *
Sofia: And the case went public.
Luís Miguel Rosa Dias: The thing then came out in great headlines in Século Ilustrado and later in the French magazine Detective. It was Fernando Pessoa who wrote the whole article in English, French and well.
Jerónimo Pizarro: Crowley helps Fernando Pessoa who was writing detective novels and had started writing another detective novel faking the suicide of Aleister Crowley in Boca do Inferno, the Mouth of Hell.
Sofia: Maybe that detective story could have made Pessoa internationally famous. But as with many of Pessoa's ideas, it was never completed.
Jerónimo Pizarro: Aside from this participation of Aleister Crowley for a detective novel, maybe Crowley contributed more in Fernando Pessoa’s interest in hermeticism and occultism and initiation in a time when he was already very interested, and truth be told there are many texts on the occult by Fernando Pessoa after the encounter with Aleister Crowley. Perhaps the most important thing about the meeting was not Crowley himself, but what Crowley represented in the Western world as one of the most emblematic figures in the recovery of occult traditions.
Sofia: The relationship between the two ended in 1931. Crowley continued to write to Pessoa for a few months, but at a certain point, Pessoa stopped replying. Let’s make our way to Café Martinho da Arcada, in Terreiro do Paço.