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The Investigations of Simon Iff

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 3:24 pm    Post subject: The Investigations of Simon Iff Reply with quote

Good to see y'all again ! It's been awhile now since I visited these parts and its good to see the Peace forum continues.

Here's one of Crowleys little known short stories called "Desert Justice" from the collection known as "The Investigations of Simon Iff". I think you'll find it appealing, Sol --- Wink

Desert Justice
by Aleister Crowley

Part 2 and 3


"This is pretty good dawamesk," said Simon Iff in Arabic to the big white-bearded Sheikh who acted as Patriarch to Ouled Djellal. (Dawamesk is a preparation of hashish, or The Grass, as the Arabs call it.) They were seated outside the little inn which is the principal building of the village.

"Abu'dDin," returned the Arab, (for Simon Iff was known all over the desert by this title of "Father of Justice," Din meaning Truth, Law, Faith, but above all Justice.)

"It is good dawamesk. It is made in Djelfe by a wise and holy man who can balance himself upon one thumb, o thou who also art most wise and holy!"

"It is indeed The Grace, o Father of Lions, and I am refreshed in my spirit by its soft influence. Allah is munificent as he is great."

"There standeth no man before His face," returned the Sheikh, "and not by dawamesk alone, though it be one-third hashish, shall man behold his glory."

"Nay, but by right intentness, with an holy life."

"But hashish doth indeed assist us who are weak in soul, and whose lives are defiled with iniquity."

"There was a great king," said the magician, "in a country beyond Suleiman's, whose name was Nebuchadnezzar. For seven years did this holy man live upon Grass, becoming mad and running about naked. These things are written to encourage us. I am myself made bold to find a secret place in the sand where I may seek this blessing, for I have the Great Word from a certain Ulema of Alkahira, the most cunning reputed in all Al Misr."

The old man clasped the knees of Simon Iff in pathetic entreaty. "O my father, wilt thou not reveal it to me? I swear by the Beard of the Prophet of Allah that I will not profane it."

"Thou must first renounce all human ties and duties; wilt thou leave thy children to perish in the desert for lack of thy wisdom?"

The Sheikh sighed. "My father, it is hard to wait for Paradise."

"It is also a mistake," said Simon, on whom the hashish was having a delightful effect, "as in the case of Mohammed (Peace be upon him!) when he waited for the mountain to come to him."

The Sheikh began to laugh uproariously; a mild blasphemy is much appreciated by the simply pious. Nor is judicious dawamesk any impediment to mirth. Iff took him by the arm.

"Let us go to the entertainment. Have you good dancing-girls in Ouled Djellal?"

"We have pride in Fatima, the Scorpion," replied the old man with enthusiasm; "she is like a young date palm heavy with fruit. Her teeth are like pearls, but her bite is like a scorpion's sting, and hence is her lakab (nick-name, said Iff to Lord Juventius, aside) the Scorpion. She is like the air of the desert at dawn when she dances, and when she loves it is a simoon."

"And the others?"

"They are soft like shadows upon the sand dunes in the belly of the Desert, and she is the full moon."

"I am certainly encouraged in my determination to see her."

They were walking across the big square of the village. It was only a few steps; but the dawamesk made the way seem long, and infinitely brilliant. The universe was stainless, ineffable, silent. The moon lit the world with incorruptible phantasy. All was white, even the sand, save only for the soft blue shadows, and the gold stars in the impenetrable indigo of Heaven. Only the low monotonous clang of cymbals stirred the night. Only the flitting forms of men, like ghosts, disturbed the shrine-like sanctity of the square. Now they were at the dancing-hall, a long room with tables and benches with a wide aisle and a dais at the end where sat the dancers and the musicians.

"There is Fatima," said the Sheikh, "look how the eyes of Muley Husein are fixed on her. He goes to the South to-morrow to his own house; it is said that he will take her with him." Muley Husein was an enormous negro, fierce and proud, with a green turban, and an aigrette of uncut jewels to fasten it. Two Arabs, with their hands upon their daggers, stood behind him to guard him.

Simon Iff seated himself and drank the coffee brought by the attendant as he watched the dance. There is no fascination in the world like this: if you have enough coffee, and enough tobacco, and just the right amount of hashish, you can sit all night and every night, and never wax weary of that splendid show. There is no question of a performance inthe Anglo-Saxon sense of the word. It resembles nothing so much as ocean. There is no object, not even play. The dance simply existed, indifferent to all things. For those who can stop grasping the streams of event and float upon that ocean, it is very Paradise. If you expect something to happen, or want something to happen, it is Hell.

The girl who had been dancing sat down, without warning, as she had begun. In these Arabian Nights nobody takes apparent notice of anything. But there was a murmur as of the birth of some hot deadly wind, when, after a pause, Fatima advanced to the front of the dais. She was tall and slim, but sturdy. Her head-dress, her necklaces, her amulets and her anklets were all of Napoleons strung on gold wire. As she stood and swayed, there were a couple of thousand dollars on her in gold currency. She was of rich yellow-brown skin, like an autumn leaf at its most golden. There were purple shadows, lucious as ripe plums. All blended admirably with the dull blue of her tattoo marks, and the Indian red of the big sash which accentuated her hips. It was fastened with a huge brooch, circular, of rough pearls; and with her glances and her gestures her whole dance seemed to say, "Look at my brooch!"
Simon Iff looked.
His eyes left her body, that swayed just as a snake does when it hears music of the right kind, her head that jagged from shoulder to shoulder with an insanely impossible jerk, and came to the brooch. It rose and fell like the breast of a sleeping child; then it made circles, loops, whorls, sinuous, and subtle, as if the moon were drunken on old wine; then with savage ecstasy it gave a series of strong jerks, straight up and down, and Simon thought that it could drag his soul to Hell, and he would love her for it. He contrasted her mentally with a fat hag from Tunis, Jewish and Greek, he thought, who banged a cymbal in the background. The flabby piece of paste! The old Sheikh noticed the magician's glance wander, and told him that the object of his animadiversion was Fatima's mother.

"Italian and Jewish from Malta the island is she by birth, and her name is Desda, which in that speech means desirable; but Fatima's father was a pure Badawi, a lizard of the sand. Dirty Desda, they call her, and Mother of Snot."

"O father of fortunate warriors, is it the dawamesk which betrayeth my judgement, or is this Fatima indeed a Peri of the Prophet? For such enchantment have I never beheld with these eyes."

"It is the dawamesk, without doubt, o Lord of Judgments, for I also have not seen her in this flowering on any other night."

The music seemed to hush itself to low muttering intensity as she danced.
The night was stifling hot; in that airless barn, with its heavy candles, the smoke of oil, of tobacco, of kif, it seemed to Simon Iff as though Time were abrogated, as though the fantastic movements of the brooch on the girl's belly were the geometry of some insane and sensual god.
With one side-twitch he swooped down slippery wave-summits of glaucous air until he came nigh swooning; a circular heave, and he saw a billion universes set awhirl by lust; she shook her shoulders, and he thought of God with his winnowing-fan, driving the light souls as chaff into annihilation.
She slowed into bowers of night, and then--those fierce vertical jerks sucked the magician shuddering through Šon upon countless Šon of orgiastic ecstasy. He noticed that he was gasping strongly. One of the many advantages of hashish is that the slightest call to action bestows the power, if one wills, to come straight out of the intoxication into a state of especially vigorous freshness. "It is not the dawamesk," he said to himself; "the girl is really dancing as I have never seen anyone dance before.
Then since it is not that, the Sheikh too sees her in abnormal state." Abnormal states interest Simon Iff. Is it love? "That Muley Husein is certainly a magnificent beast," he said aloud, turning to his disciple, "you observe the super-excellence of our young friend? What is it?"

The young man inhaled his cigarette deeply before replying. "She is intensely concentrated, she has utterly lost herself. She is dancing on her second wind, if I may call it that. But she had sone this at the cost of an infinitely fierce struggle with something in herself. She may have made up her mind to kill somebody, or more likely herself. Or she may be under the influence of some drug not hashish; or she may be going to be ill."

"Time will show," replied Simon, relapsing into his intoxication, with complete indifference to all speculation. But before another minute had passed Fatima herself settled the point by staggering and then settling to the ground. Her mother went to her, lifted her into a chair and sent a boy to bring water. Another girl took her place, and the music clashed out anew with vital frenzy. No one appeared to notice the accident.

But the new girl did not interest Simon; she was an anticlimax; he kept his eyes on Fatima.

"Ju," said he, "your third arrow hit the mark. She is very ill. I will ask the Sheikh to give orders."

In a few moments the girl had been taken to her room in the court-yard. Muley Husein loomed in the doorway over the little party. Simon Iff made his examination. Her skin was cold and clammy, her pupils contracted, her breath stertorous. "All is well," reported Simon Iff at length, after administering an injection from a small case which he invariably carried on long journeys. "It is the will of Allah that she shall not die this night."

The negro gave a fierce cry of joy. "But I am bound to tell you that she has been poisoned."

"It is not possible," shrieked the mother, while Muley Husein roared with rage.

"It is possible, and it is true," said the Sheikh, "for the Father of Justice makes no errors."

"Let me know the jackal that did this!" cried Muley. The Sheikh was as indifferent as before. "All things are known to Allah, the All-Knower," was his comment, which is Arabic for "I don't know, and I don't care."

"Perhaps a small investigation?" suggested the magician.

"O Father of Justice and Perspecuity, the case is common. All the women are jealous of her beauty and of her fame, and all her lovers are in despair because they fear that Muley Husein will take her into his harem."

"O Protector of thy People, it is written that the All-Knower bestoweth knowledge according to His will, for He is the Merciful, the Compassionate, and pitieth the ignorance of His creatures."

"I will give a camel load of ivory to the man who discovereth this shame," groaned the negro, whose emotion seemed to become more violent every moment.

"Bestow it upon her, then, for my wedding gift; for I will make this door open, by the favour of Allah, and the help of our Lord the Sheikh Abd-el-Kabir."

"I shall help, as I may, far-seeing one!" said the Sheikh. "But thy way is hidden from me."

"Let Fatima be given much coffee, and made to walk seven times around the village, and then taken to thy house, and put under guard. Then in the morning do thou assemble together all that are in the village, both men and women, everyone with his cookingpot, and I will shew thee the magick of my country."

"According unto thy word so shall it be."

Fatima was now almost able to walk, and the Sheikh, summoning two men, had them support her. They started away at a brisk walk. "That," said Simon to Lord Juventius, "will sweat the rest of the stuff out of her. She will be well in the morning." Then he turned to Muley Husein: "Our ways lie together, if it be thy pleasure to return to thy tents; for I am going into the desert that I may pray Allah for wisdom in this matter."

The negro gladly consented. When they were outside the last houses, Simon Iff put a hand upon the man's huge shoulder.

"I will instruct thee, o chief of warriors, as a father to his son, for I am old and well stricken in years. I have saved the life of thy gazelle, and I shall give into thy hands the chastisement of the poisoner. This is the justice of the desert, where Allah dwelleth with open eye. See thou to it that thou play the part that I assign to thee, seeking secretly afterwards for the thought concealed in my speech."

The big man assented with a child's gratitude and a child's trust. "Swear it unto me!" And he sware solemnly. They parted after Simon Iff had drunk his share of a bottle of champagne in the chief's tent.

Lord Juventius Mellor had slipped away to follow Fatima. He knew without being told that his master was apprehensive of a further attempt upon her life. He was consequently prowling around the Sheikh's house when the old magician returned to the village.

"Not a mouse stirring," he reported. "I've been thinking--trying to what I call think you would say, perhaps--and I can't imagine for the life of me how you proposed to spot the criminal. As old Abd-al-Kabir justly said, it's open to the whole village to have done it. Anybody can go to her room, whether she's there or not, and poison her food."

"No," said the other, "this is your first journey in these parts, so I can excuse you, but it's almost impossible to poison food. They're always on the lookout for it; they cook it themselves, or have it done by trusty people who know well that an indigestion means suspicion and a beating, and serious illness quick detection, and bitter retribution."

"I should not have said food. Abd-al-Kabir mentioned that a week since a seller of dawamesk, a son of Eblis, accursed, a father of calamities, passed through. It would be easy to change her dawamesk without detection. But the man is gone, no one knows where; and if we had him, he would deny selling the poison; much less would he say to whom he sold it."

"Good as far as it goes, Ju, but as a matter of fact we have a very good line on the culprit. What, let me ask you, was the nature of the poison?"

"Symptoms suggested opium."

"They did, but you couldn't mix opium in poisonous doses with dawamesk without changing its appearance. Hashish and opium are more or less physiological incompatibles. Mix 'em, and you get that very gorgeous jag in which she so enthralled us. But for the opium to bide its time, to conquer the hashish, to knock her out, oh a very big does, boy!"

"Well, one could mix morphia with the hashish."

"One could."

"But morphia isn't known in the desert."

"Exactly, and that is our clue. We have to find a person with a guilty conscience and a knowledge of European medicine--some small knowledge at least."

The lad laughed. "It points to that Baptist scoundrel. He was here yesterday. He may be a connoisseur in murder, or he may be trying to work up a market in morphine--a little preliminary practice before he gets busy with China's perishing millions."

"Unfortunately, Ju, he was not here yesterday, or any day. His horse and his camels had crossed the Chott; I saw the mire on their hoofs. And the Sheikh had heard nothing of them. No, it's someone in the village."

"With a guilty conscience and some modern science--well, I'd love to see you get him!"

"Let us fortify nature by repose." And they went off to the hotel together, and to bed.


At sunrise the next day the Sheikh had duly gathered the whole village in the square. Each had his cooking-pot, squatting behind it. Simon Iff asked the Sheikh to inform the people officially of what had occurred, and to propound an oath of innocence. They took it as one man; not a face there betrayed the slightest interest in the proceedings.

"Now," said Abd-el-Kabir, "the Father of Justice will determine by his magick which of you is forsworn to Allah, as well as an assassin."

Simon asked for a supply of camel's milk, which was at once forthcoming.

"Now," said he, "a little milk shall be placed in each pot, and the pot sealed. Then let all go about their business, bringing the pots here at sunset; and it may be that he who is guilty shall find the milk sour, while that of the innocent shall be sweet."

This sounded good, something like magick! For milk in Ouled Djellal turns in a couple of hours. The people went about all day in suppressed excitement; nearly everybody felt guilty and nervous. It was a very critical moment when they re-assembled in the square.

The Sheikh himself was to inspect the milk. What a sigh of relief went up from all hearts but one when the very first pot proved to be sour! The man was on his feet, leaping and protesting. "Shut up!" cried Simon Iff, cowing the man with a fierce glance. Then to the Sheikh: "Go on." The old man looked at the magician in mild surprise. "There may have been an accomplice," he explained. And the second pot was sour, and so were the third, and the fourth, and the fifth; the people began to laugh.

Abd-el-Kabir wanted to create a diversion. "My Father, the magick has failed. I am putting shame upon you."

"I can bear it," said Simon, "but I will pray a little harder. In the meanwhile, pray go on!"

Simon Iff began to recite the Chapter of the Unity aloud, with many bows, and the people halted in opinion, thinking that there might be something else coming. Eventually he stopped.

"And what is the report, o great Sheikh?" he asked.

"Alas, all the milk is sour, save that which was in the pot of Fatima's own mother."

"Ah, madame Desda," said Iff lightly, "the effect of mother love. Is that how you explain it?"

"These are all savages," replied the pallid piece of salt pork, "they have all murder in their hearts. I am not of them; I am also a Christian."

"Also!" said Iff; "ah yes, also."

"And thus our Lord Issa protecteth us from even the shadow of evil."

"Doth he, really? I should go into that again, if I were you. How did you find the Light?"

"I am not a common woman. I was in the American Baptist Mission in Tunis."

"Infant Baptism, by the dates," murmured Iff.

"I teach in Sunday School."

"Ah, that's where they taught you to sterilize milk?"

"No, no, no, I don't know how," cried the trapped woman.

"Nonsense," said Simon, "everybody here knows enough to boil milk; but all the others trusted in my magick and their own innocence to keep the milk fresh; which did you doubt, Desda?"

"It is foolish, it is nonsense; it is my habit to boil milk; I did it without thinking."

"Without thinking enough," corrected the magician. "Fatima was poisoned with morphia, which nobody here has; I was merely looking for a person with European knowledge and a guilty conscience."

"I am satisfied," put in the Sheikh; "Surely this woman shall be put to death."

"You can't touch me," she screamed; "you can't prove I had morphia; you can't prove I gave it. I appeal to the Commandant of the District."

"She has you there," said Simon cheerfully: "you can't prove a thing. But this is all child's talk. Let me rather explain to you the Law. It is written: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. And again: Love is the law, love under will. From this we learn that every one of us is justified in doing what he will. Woman, neither do I condemn thee. But--your will has been thwarted, since your daughter is not dead. Do you then wish to kill her, now, before us all? You are safe from the law which punishes--tell us, what was your will in poisoning Fatima? Had you no object beyond that?"

Desda saw that things were going her way. It was all very unexpected, but no doubt Christians must stand together. Her colleague was fooling these savages.

"I wish to be the wife of Muley Husein," she said boldly; "and Fatima was in my way."

"See how simple and beautiful it all is," said Simon Iff with enthusiasm, and a ferocious glance at the big negro, who could hardly contain himself. Lord Juventius went over to Muley, and stood ready to check any move, in case that glance failed of effect.

"Love! What a passion is love! How prove a great love better than by willingness to commit crime, to risk detection and the guillotine in order to satisfy it? Most certainly, Desda, you have deserved to win! Muley Husein, on your oath I charge you to receive this woman in your harem!" His voice rang out like a trumpet. The people did not understand, but they saw the joke on the negro, and roared with laughter. Lord Juventius gripped the man's arm with slender fingers, strong and brown. The magician threw a veil over Desda, and led her to him.

"Remember your oath to the man who saved Fatima," murmured the disciple. Muley was shaking like a leaf with rage and shame. He turned furiously and stalked away to his tents, the old woman smirking and smiling and tossing her head, wallowing in his wake.

The Sheikh protested. "Muley Husein is the guest of the village," quoth he; "and you have put him to open shame."

"Then I am no more Father of Justice--the Father of the Desert?"

"My father, forgive me. I have been blind in this matter; it may be I am yet blind."

"At sunrise to-morrow--may Allah grant thee sight!" And at that hour the magician called upon the Sheikh. Muley Husein's caravan was crossing the square on its way to his home in the South. As the last of the camels passed, it was noticed that a short cord was attached to its near hind leg; the other end of the cord was tied to a very heavy iron ring, and that ring was soldered through the nose of Desda. Behind her, a carefree boy was trying his skill with a long lash of hippopotamus hide, and from the stately litter of the negro Fatima's laughing face peeped out, until her husband drew it to him, and glued his mouth to hers.

The village was again in laughter, and the Sheikh in passionate admiration for his friend.

"It seems that substantial justice has been done," drawled Lord Juventius Mellor.

"To me not so," retorted Simon Iff, with cold fury; "But if we could get the American Baptist Mission here, and some stakes and cord and molasses and red ants, we might make a beginning."


Blessed Be,
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:54 pm    Post subject: Oh Bravo Reply with quote

Oh Bravo Julia..

What an awesome Story, thanks for that.

I see the moral shining clear at the end there...

Don't put the blame on one of Uncle Hagbard Celine's "poor damned things", find the bastards that programmed hir and Punish the infidel dogs to Hell, and not necessarily back again!

That was my impression at the end there anyway.

Good to see you popping back in again, it seems a long time since we saw you, and I remembered your lovely lion at once of course.

That was pure Gold.. thanks again. Very Happy Very Happy

Allahu Akbar.

All Hail Eris.



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought that little story might tickle your fancy, Sol. Very Happy

If you'd like to read more from "Simon Iff" you can find the entire collection at


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 9:32 am    Post subject: Super Reply with quote

Ah, how Super Julia...

Thanks for that, I shall indeed go and read it all the moment I get time.

Be Blessed.



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