“The childish go after outward pleasures and fall into the net of death spread wide.”
~ The Vedas
The two souls that shared the robot body of Tin Prince Twain often manifested in this way. By entering into a meditative state they could separate from the amalgam consciousness they became in their waking life and for a time converse as the two distinct consciousnesses they had been in their lives on Earth.
Despite the infinite environments available to the powerful imaginations of two souls who had experienced extensive inter-stellar and inter-planar travel, they typically conducted these meetings in quaint environs. Alistair Crowley was fond of mountain climbing. Mark Twain was an avid surfer.
Today, thanks to the artistic lucidity of the writer from America and the meditative focus of the occult master from England, they reclined in warm sand against long boards jammed into a beach in Hawaii.
“This Pinocchio Complex of yours does not justify the destruction you have wrought.” The one who went by the pen name Twain took a long pull on a bottle of ice-cold American beer. “Besides, your obsession is somewhat counter to your general philosophy. Is it not?”
Aleister Crowley, whose soul had manifested for this conversation in the robot mind the men shared as a raven-haired version of himself in his early twenties, smiled condescendingly at his roommate. He was genuinely grateful for Twain’s splendid imagination and knack for visualization, but his high morality and naïveté were excruciating to entertain for one whose open-mindedness had resulted in him coming to be known as the beast.
“Means to ends, junior. My ends – in this now immortal form – simply being to recover the sensual pleasures of true flesh… the sensations of true eyes. You miss it too.” He raised his beer and pointed it at Twain. “You know I do us both a service in this endeavour. My will, our will, is merely to experience that which we have lost in the winning of immortality.” He smiled at Twain, who wore a tanned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, boyishly handsome form. As usual, for kicks, Crowley put a sinister edge on his smile. He lived for eliciting a reaction. Twain glared at him and simply finished his beer. He knew he would not win this argument and that they were set firmly on their course, whether he liked it or not.
Generally, the two souls shared a mystical worldview. In their years on Earth, in separate bodies, each of them had shown open and unapologetic disdain for their respective societies’ inclinations to hyper-reductionist delineation of reality. Government, religion, cultural values – even notions like race, gender and nation – had been abhorrent to both of them, and both had made names for themselves as fierce social critics in their professional careers.
This shared perspective: this notion of the world as a single, organic, dynamic, indivisible system that was at odds with the popular, pervasive mechanical, building block misconception of reality was their common ground. It was the means by which they could overcome just enough of their other differences. It was the bond that transcended their otherwise remarkable incompatibility as souls that could functionally co-inhabit the same corporeal body.
Twain’s mysticism had developed as a compulsion to art that found expression and satisfaction in the inner realm of his own imagination, which he communicated in-turn through writing to the inner realms of others.
Crowley’s mysticism became the will to self-actualize through the sort of extreme sensory and physical stimulation in the outer, material realm that became possible when consciousness transcended the false, arbitrary and ultimately limiting delineations and restrictions of culture, society, morality, and law.
Unified by a penchant for mystical awareness, the two souls that shared the robot form notorious across all reality were estranged in the means by which each undertook to manifest that awareness as action.
In their lives on Earth, both men saw all things as connected and so had undertaken to bring no harm to other beings. But, in having succeeded in his lust for immortality, Crowley increasing regarded the material body – at least one in the possession of another – as less important than the soul. Over time, as his access to true sorcery beyond The Rim expanded his power and perspective, he came to regard corporeal life as impertinent in relation to the longer journey of the soul. Who should live and who should die? So long as it wasn’t him, why did this matter? How could he possibly judge the relative value of the lives of other beings? Why should he bother? Indeed, if liberating souls from their bodies would served his needs, was he not providing mutual benefit by facilitating the transmigration of a soul to its next life? After he had come to inhabit the Atlantean robot body constructed for him by Tesla, after he had achieved immortality, he had come to see himself as having emerged from a chrysalis – of having shed the last of the naïve morality imposed by the limitations of mortal thought. The biological imperative to covet and protect life in general no longer applied to Tin Prince Twain.
Situations change, consciousness evolves, and perspectives that inform the will to self-actualization transcend their former limitations.
In his new, immortal mind, which was of course to him the mind of a god, he had come to see the lives of the mere mortals he had left behind as inconsequential.
Mark Twain, suffice it to say, had both deeply resented, and consistently expressed powerful opposition to this sentiment. It was the primary point of contention between the two souls. But subconsciously, unbeknownst even to himself, Twain also longed for the return of the sensations of the flesh that Crowley so strategically sought. Though he was dismayed by Crowley’ means, he was not (at least below the surface) really all that opposed to the ends they might achieve. This buried compliance with that which he outwardly despised clawed at the dreamer’s mind from its depths.
It could be said that though Crowley’s lusts and passions were many and excessive, they were completely under the discipline of his will, but that while Twain’s lusts and passions were fewer and more demure, like most good men, they were not sufficiently acknowledged and so evaded the adequate regulation of his intentions.
One brought dark discipline, the other whimsy and light. One brought primal hunger, the other principled restraint.
And so, Tin Prince Twain it was whispered –by those few who knew him well – was not so much a menace forged of steel as he was a menace forged of irony.
“Back to work then?” Twain hurled the beer bottle into the air toward the ocean. After over a century in here with one he thought an arrogant, unrepentant anarchist, he knew better than to argue. He would have to remain satisfied with policing the situation, biding his time, and assessing opportunities to keep the beast in check by whatever means he could muster.
“That’s the spirit!” Crowley said, imbuing the words with a sarcastic edge that would let Twain know he would never cease being suspicious of him.
The beach, the young, athletic bodies, and indeed the greater part of the sensation of being two distinct entities receded from both of them then. Once again the two mystics, one a skeptical and compassionate dreamer and the other a hopeful and pragmatic anarchist, became a jumbled amalgam of both souls. Retaining something of the best, and something of the worst, of each, it was as though they melded together to form a third entity: a whole greater than the sum of its parts: the sorcerer known, revered and feared the length, width and depth of the cosmos as Tin Prince Twain.
As the meditative state that had enabled the inner conversation between the two souls receded, the robot’s vision came into the room.
Decorated in the style of the court of Russian emperor, Peter the First, the expansive space would have been impressive to most eyes. To one who knew it was in fact a convoluted pocket of spacetime that twisted and turned again and again in upon itself to reside within a demure wooden hut roughly one hundredth the size of its inner dimensions, it was miraculous. That the hut travelled as directed by the will of its owner upon the enormous legs of an eagle, was just the proverbial icing on the cake.
The hut, which was a legendary artifact of the fearsome Yaga coven of witches, was the property of the young coven matron, Nina Yaga, who now stood in the centre of the room instructing Andrei Rasputin in the finer points of Tai-Chi.
Tin Prince Twain marvelled at the skill the boy had attained in such a short time. Appealing to Andrei’s nationalist inclinations by using Russian occult traditions as the gateway to his training had been the right choice. He was also sure that Nina’s remarkable beauty and grace, so at odds with the fearsome crones the Yaga coven was known for, had also played no small part in assuring Andrei’s passion for his studies.
The two flowed through their Tai-Chi sequence in perfect unison. During her time on Sanctuary, where she had met Aleister Crowley, Nina had been a dancer in the Kirov ballet. Her feminine lines were complemented perfectly by the magical unitard she wore. Crafted from a fabric that had been given to Tin Prince Twain by the Heliopolitan goddess Nuit, it conveyed the wearer’s form as a window into the void. Irrespective of more immediate angles and lighting, the material somehow presented the nebulous starscape of the depth of space directly behind the person wearing it.
Andrei’s inherent athleticism, and the focus and discipline he had learned as a deep space cadet of the United Soviet Socialist Stellar Republic, had made him a quick study of the ancient Chinese art of efficiently perceiving, process and addressing reality. The Tin Prince was fascinated to see that, even in the short few hours he had been meditating, the prodigal apprentice’s aetheric field had blossomed.
“Comrade Twain, welcome back. We are just finishing.” Nina’s smile was genuine for she held the Tin Prince in high esteem. He had shared many secrets of the arts of sorcery with her in her days as a young initiate.
The robot smiled at her use of the word comrade. She had agreed with him that exploiting their apprentice’s powerful loyalties to ethnicity, patriotism and ideology were a good tactic. She also understood the irony – and the dangers to the boy’s sanity – of constructing an otherwise un-delineated mystical perspective upon such rigidly defined foundations. Though both she and the Tin Prince knew this approach, which expedited the effectiveness of his learning, would likely destroy Andrei’s mind in the end, both were apathetic. He was a tool to be used and she knew she would be well rewarded for success.
As they finished their closing sequence, she turned to Andrei and tenderly touched his cheek. He blushed immediately – and deeply.
“Once again you have performed exceptionally,” Her voice was intoxication incarnate and her acumen impressed the Tin Prince such that he felt a mixture sympathy and envy for the boy. “Retire to the meadow, Raspberry. I will join you their shortly, after I report to our master. He will be so proud of your progress.”
Then, Andrei turned and quickly bowed to the robot. “With your leave, Master.” The Prince could see the excitement on his face and knew he would be anxious to return to the fertile beauty of the plains of Lada, which lay outside the eagle-legged hut of Nina Yaga. And he knew that much more than the subtle pleasures of wildflowers awaited him there, for the promiscuous Rati, disguised in the innocent beauty of the Slavic goddess (and likely a number of her assistants as well) would know very well how to sate the appetites of a teenage Earth boy.
In that moment, the envy the Prince felt for what the boy would experience touched the edge of outright hatred until the discipline of his mind transformed this jealousy into determination: the commitment to being a being of flesh once again.
With a flurry of hand gestures and vocalizations, Andrei disappeared with a pop as air rushed into the vacuum he left behind. The Prince was impressed that he had generated enough personal aether to expend it so casually, for he knew he had no souls to power such a spell.
Tin Prince Twain, stood up then and walked toward Nina. In that mysterious way of his he wore an expression of approval on his metal face.
“He is a miracle! I have never seen such aptitude in a male of any species before!” Nina said it with her typical exuberance and she jumped up easily and threw her arms around the enormous robot. “Personal company excluded, of course.” She added with feigned seriousness.
“You do the esteemed legacy of your coven great service Madame Yaga. Your knowledge, your patience, and your charms have achieved more than we could have dreamed possible in a remarkably short span of time.”
He took a moment then to appreciate fully the witch’s grace and beauty. No doubt her student had been a completely enthralled and enthusiastic audience.
“I cannot take all the credit.” She smiled suggestively at the robot with two souls. “Rati’s machinations as Sister Lada have certainly kept him in the blissful state required for me to ply my craft.
Nina was referring to her efforts to dilate Andrei’s perception of the passage of time using the hallmark of the Yaga coven’s sorcery: an aptitude for contorting the relationship between consciousness and spactime.
Provided Andrei was in a state of contentment, Nina Yaga’s spellcraft could create a circumstance in which passage of time would seem to move more rapidly in his direct vicinity – but appeared to flow at the normal, seemingly slower, rate around him.
The result of this trick of temporal perception had been that Andrei had learned years worth of sorcerous material in mere months.
Their plan for his apprenticeship had been mapped out meticulously. Nina would expedite Andrei’s training with here unique magic, and the lustful Rati, goddess of sensuality, disguised as the Slavic, Lada, Lady of Flowers, would keep the him in the state of bliss that made the Yaga time dilation possible.
The golden-haired, elfin Yada was the perfect vehicle to appeal to the young Soviet idealist’s character. Like Isthtar, Eostre, and countless others celestial avatars of the essence of springtime, Lada, the Slavic embodiement of fertility and rebirth, would not only appeal to Andrei’s nationalistic sensibilities, she also represented a freshness and innocence that would appeal to aspirations he undoubtedly now entertained of a destiny as the benevolent emperor of a cosmic communist utopia.
“He is deliciously innocent!” Nina said it in a way that made the Tin Prince pity the boy – but not for long. A mischievous grin came upon his face.
Cupping her face gently, remarkably so for a machine of such size and power, and looking into her eyes. “I cannot even be sure what the word innocence means coming from one such as you.”
Playfully, she shoved him away and they both laughed.
“You pig!” Nina feigned anger. “You know the plan! I am the forbidden fruit! The true love! No, no, no – I am the carrot always out of reach.”
“Of course,” said the Tin Prince. It is plain to see that he adores you. You are the grand interest, while Rati provides for other, baser, inclinations.”
“Indeed! Nina said. It is a joy to observe. He shows incredible discipline and restraint. Any other Earther of his age and experience confronted with Rati’s sensuality cloaked in Lada’s beauty and tenderness would have gone mad with lust by now.”
“I do imagine he preserves himself in that regard for one who holds his deeper affectations” The Tin Prince looked at Nina not at all expecting her to blush and was rewarded with the eye roll he expected.
“But of course!” she said, clasping her hands over her heart in a mocking gesture and looking up at him from under fluttering eyelashes.
“May we observe him?” The robot asked.
“Naughty as always, Old Crow! eh?” Of course. “But be prepared to be disappointed. He will be studying at the moment.”
With the graceful wave of her elegant dancer’s hand Nina opened a slice in the air before her. It was as though her fingernail had opened spacetime itself. Tin Prince Twain stepped up beside her and as the slit widened he saw a beautiful meadow on the other side. The sky consisted of an almost perfect balance of perfect white cumulus summer clouds and the radiant blue of mid-day sky.
Andrei leaned against a brightly coloured purple and silver toadstool about the size of a post box. An incredibly beautiful woman, roughly his age, lay with her head in his lap looking up at him adoringly. Indeed, there were beautiful women everywhere – young men too. All of them were about the same age, save one.
With daisies, periwinkles and buttercups all through her glistening pale golden hair, an older woman lay on her side, completely naked with her head propped on one arm. She too looked up with admiration at young Andrei. The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky floated above and in front of her and was opened so that Andrei could read it. The boy, surprisingly in the presence of so much glorious beauty, was completely enthralled by what he was reading.
The Tin Prince knew the naked woman on the ground was Rati and not Lada, for in her eyes he saw much more than the innocence the boy would have seen.
The robot smiled widely, and Nina, knowing she had pleased one she respected greatly, allowed herself to blush with satisfaction at what she had achieved for him.
In the adolescent ecstasy brought on in the company of Lada and her handmaidens, not to mention the constant attentions of the bewitching Nina Yaga, the teenage boy had hovered near the point of pure sensual bliss just shy of release for the past few weeks. In this state, the Yaga time dilation had facilitated his learning at a remarkable rate and his aether had grown to the point where he could cast simple spells without needing to employ soul energy.
All this time, his socialist ideology, his egalitarian sense of justice, and his notion of national pride and moral certainty were nurtured as well. For Aleister Crowley knew that none are more driven and dangerous than those who believe their agenda is virtuous.
Under the ceaseless press and caress of divine flesh, the distinction between physical self and other was falling away; in the melody of words both of pleasing tone and profound meaning, categories and labels were evaporating while wisdom deepened; and as the beauty of nature personified in the temptations of lustful Rati and wrapped deceitfully in the innocence of Lada eroded, the constructed distinction between self and nature eroded with it.
An so, amid the roses and dandelions, in a divine, all-embracing spring perfect for the adolescence of both body and mind, Andrei had grown in sorcerous power.
The robot smiled at the synchronicity of it all. Lada – Spring and rebirth – the perfect matron to preside over the rebirth of Andrei Rasputin as sorcerer-emperor of all reality and the unwitting tool by which Tin Prince Twain would acquire the Glass Grimoire: the sole means by which he reclaim his form of flesh.
Looking upon him now, attired to appear as the Ancaster Crowley of this world in an Asia concert shirt and torn, worn blue jeans, the part of the Tin Prince that was Aleister Crowley wondered if Andrei Rasputin had already surpassed the skills of his doppleganger from this universe and he beamed with pride at what he had wrought in so little time.
The part of the robot that was Samuel Clemens was having different thoughts altogether.
Recalling something he had written in the years before he had come to share this body with Aleister Crowley, he looked upon the weapon Crowley was forging to deliver them from their artificial form and he was forced to admit that, though he despised it completely, he agreed with Crowley’s plan.
For he suspected that the power of the Glass Grimoire in the hands of young Andrei Rasputin, which could remake them as a being of flesh and bone again, might also be power enough to separate them into two distinct beings.
And though he knew he would do almost anything to part ways with the soul of Aleister Crowley, he also knew too well the dark havoc they must soon unleash to accomplish this.
The thought of it filled him with remorse – and were he any more now than just an imprisoned aspect of the mind of a robot, the man once called Mark Twain would have blushed with the shame of it.