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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1023

Aegypt also published as The Solitudes), Love and Sleep, and Daemonomania are the first three installments of Crowley’s projected four-volume novel (collectively entitled Aegypt ) that concerns myth, history, Gnostic religious philosophy, and Renaissance magic. Its governing theme—which is exhaustively explored and restated throughout the text—is that there...

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Aegypt also published as The Solitudes), Love and Sleep, and Daemonomania are the first three installments of Crowley’s projected four-volume novel (collectively entitled Aegypt) that concerns myth, history, Gnostic religious philosophy, and Renaissance magic. Its governing theme—which is exhaustively explored and restated throughout the text—is that there is more than one history of the world.

Aegypt chronicles Pierce Moffett’s escape to a rural life in the Catskills from his life in New York City and an unsatisfying academic career. Love and Sleep takes the reader forward to the next stage in Pierce’s various types of research, both into historical accounts and into himself, to understand the “time when the world worked differently.” It begins by chronicling Pierce’s personal history as a boy growing up in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Tennessee in the early 1950’s. Stories are included about historical figures of the late sixteenth century, including Giordano Bruno, who is credited with discovering the concept of infinity, and the scientist/philosopher/magician Doctor John Dee. Daemonomania follows Pierce, Dee, and Bruno through their respective “passage times,” periods of infinite possibility in which the world moves from what it has been to what it will eventually become.

Aegypt mentions Pierce’s childhood and Doctor Dee’s research with two short prologues. Primarily, however, it narrates the quest begun in Pierce’s thirties. He sets out in the first section to interview for a teaching position at a small college in upstate New York. The bus he has taken breaks down, and he skips the interview to stay with Spofford, a former student who is now a shepherd in the small town of Blackbury Jambs. Pierce decides that he wants to stay, then briefly returns to the city to sell a book proposal to a former girlfriend. He can then settle in Blackbury Jambs to write a popular account of the epistemological break between the medieval and the modern periods, times of religious, magical, and scientific fervor. He meets Spofford’s girlfriend, Rosie, and another woman, Rose, both of whom will help him in his quest. Aegypt focuses on Rosie; her husband Mike, whom she is in the process of divorcing; their small daughter, Sam; and their uncle, Boney Rasmussen. Rosie hires Pierce to work for Boney’s foundation and put in order the papers of a deceased novelist, Fellowes Kraft (an allusion to Fellowescraft, the second level of masonry), who also worked for the foundation. Among Kraft’s papers, Pierce discovers an unfinished work that matches his proposed book. Aegypt ends with his having created his project for the foundation but trying to decide what to do about his own book.

Love and Sleep continues the story of Pierce’s book by documenting his motivations. The first thirteen chapters of part 1 narrate two years of Pierce’s boyhood in the early 1950’s, when he lived with his mother in the Cumberland Mountains. The focus is on his experiences with his cousins, mountain people alternately endowed and devastated by mining operations, and on his relationship to books and to Roman Catholic doctrine, all equally fantastic to him. The second section introduces the sixteenth century through texts of Fellowes Kraft read by Rosie Rasmussen and Pierce himself in the late 1970’s. As Rosie and Pierce read, Pierce attempts to use the magical forces of Doctor Dee and his medium, Kelley, for his own purposes. Pierce appears to be a disturbed individual who uses his research for the foundation, which is simultaneously research for his own book, to satisfy lusts of spiritual and physical kinds. His discovery that a lost land of Aegypt may be responsible for the survival of magic in the modern world is confirmed for him (if not for the reader) by his analysis of accumulated personal occurrences. He notes that he “accidentally” ended up in Blackbury Jambs, home of Fellowes Kraft, whose novels he read as a child; that he was once sexually involved with a crazy gypsy (he takes “gypsy” as derived from the magical Aegypt); and that he finds himself editing the manuscript of a book by Kraft corresponding to the book he plans to write.

A third story, of Giordano Bruno, Doctor Dee, Rudolph II, and other historical figures from the sixteenth century, carries the reader into Pierce’s and Fellowes Kraft’s research in an immediate sense. Pierce learns enough of Dee’s magic, he believes, to use the sexual energy of “coldly performed love” with the “other” Rose (Ryder) to create for himself a barely corporeal son and an incestuous (if imaginary) relationship, slipping further into his parallel world of magic. This novel ends with a section titled “Valetudo,” which can be translated as ill health or health. Both Pierce and his friends fear for his mental health. His only solution is to wait for the next big change in “the way the world works” so that his self-created succubus will leave him.

In Daemonomania, the tone of the narrative grows progressively darker, as the characters struggle to find their way through an increasingly chaotic world. John Dee, deserted by the angels who promised him divine revelation, travels from London to Prague and then back, where he dies—alone and largely forgotten—at his English country home of Mortlake. Giordano Bruno continues to develop his heretical philosophies, gradually moving toward an enigmatic encounter with the Office of the Inquisition in Rome. In the twentieth century sections, Pierce and Rosie Rasmussen find themselves in conflict with an overbearing faith-healing cult called the Powerhouse. Pierce loses his lover, Rose Ryder, to the blandishments of the cult, while Rosie—whose former husband, Mike Mucho, is a fanatical convert—nearly loses her daughter Sam in a hotly contested custody fight. The effort to free Sam from the controlling forces of the Powerhouse—an effort in which Pierce plays a pivotal role—provides Daemonomania with its dramatic and symbolic climax, as Crowley reveals in typically oblique fashion that Sam’s fate and the fate of the world are inextricably linked. As the novel ends, that wildly unstable world stands poised on the edge of irreversible change.

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