Aleister Crowley was a pioneer, a trailblazing searcher who opened the door of magick to reveal the secrets that had not been, until his time, even whispered in the confines of a closet. Aleister opened the doors and swung them wide for all followers of the occult to rush through in pursuit of their magical attainment. For this reason, he has been called a genius as well as a trivial madman but one thing is true; he has not faded into the facade of history nor has his persona quietly died. Quite to the contrary, Crowley has continued at the forefront of those cited as contributing the most to the spiritual dark arts.
During Crowley’s youth, he travelled with his father who preached across the country and so, Aleister was exposed to the work and skills needed to communicate a message and idea to the masses. In the days before technological advances, the “face to face” communication was not only the most effective; it was one of the few ways to spread the word of any philosophy. Aleister was drawn to belief: not good or bad, but he had a deep-seeded wish to search for more and this trait was one that served him well throughout his life. Ever a student, he would spread the word of his magical workings throughout his entire life.
Young Aleister’s father died of cancer and the experience left the impressionable youth stunned and ultimately, bitter. He set his path on an unspoken philosophy of “anything that does not conform”. His earliest poetry illustrates the idea of “anti” while opening the mind to that which was “unthought” or never spoken. I do not say that Aleister’s heart was filled with hate; that would be untrue and an easy way to dismiss his life-long works. Aleister was filled with something much different. He was filled with a burning want to question everything (a trait embraced by Satanists even today) and a tenant to believe only what could be proven. This served him quite well throughout his life.
Crowley was a connoisseur of sex and he loved sexual encounters with both men and women. He often remarked that he “only had sex to fulfill the requirements of his magical workings” yet it seems that he also took great pleasure in the many deviations to sex acts that were anything other than conventional. He would enjoy paying a prostitute to degrade him by inserting various household items into his rectum and on one occasion, was sodomized by two men in a Turkish bathhouse while performing ingeminating fellatio on yet a third man. He also enjoyed subjecting his partners to pain as well. During a sex magick ritual, he placed his fist into a young man’s anus to the point of almost rupturing his intestinal wall. All within the spirit of magick and finding a higher awareness of “self”.
Aleister was also interested and even curious about the fragility of life itself. After hearing a saying that a cat had nine lives, he reasoned that it would be almost impossible to kill a cat, and he set out to do just that. Crowley caught a cat and administered nine different terminal treatments to the animal which culminated with the cat being thrown from a second story window to “remove any remaining life”. Quite to the contrary, the animal had been dead since giving it a lethal dose of arsenic; the first of the treatments. For the curious young lad, the event was performed in the name of science and the results were simply a byproduct of a scientific experiment.
Crowley’s “The Book of the Law” is hailed as his best work even though there are other great titles to choose from. His writings were factual, confusing, poetic and mystifying, all at the same time. He had written poetry since a young boy and that motif operandi was seen as a common thread in all of his future writings. Prolific yet reserved, he preferred to write poetry and insisted on being called “The World’s Best Poet”.
He was an enigma that was perhaps, before his time and I often contemplate what he could have achieved if he lived in our wonderful time of email, internet and cyber chat. Oh, what he could have accomplished! Without conscience and devoid of humanity, he is what all members of the human race should strive to be… “a searcher”. He was not encapsulated by hearsay, dogma or urban legend. He opened his mind and all senses to receive all he could discover. Satanists take so many of his attributes to heart and strive to learn that which will show itself during a magical endeavor.
Crowley’s magick was without bounds and he did not set out to be evil at all. He believed there were forces and spirits just beyond our worldly grasp and he wanted to experience those dark images that do not cast any shadows on the floor. “Evil” was a moniker that was assigned to Aleister by a self- righteous society unable to open their minds enough to discover and benefit from Crowley’s work. His acts frightened the population and his words angered the monarchy of the time. He was not a Satanist per se. Satanism was not his primary focus and Aleister did not seriously believe in a pointed-tail viper, as it were. He communicated with demons and spirits thus being more of a student of demonology than any other magical operation.
He has been the inspiration for countless searchers; myself included. He inspired L. Ron Hubbard through his magical workings which can be glimpsed in Hubbard’s Dianetics and The Church of Scientology. Anton LaVey cited references and praised Crowley’s written works. Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, was an avid follower of Crowley and even purchased the house “Boleskine” once owned by Crowley, on the south-eastern shore of Scotland’s Loch Ness. Page claimed the house was haunted and also confessed the house “held a sacred and creative feel that allowed for total artistic freedom”. Crowley continues to inspire and influence music and writers in modern society today.
Aleister Crowley was one of the first practitioners of the occult to blend magick with consumption of mind-altering drugs during his rituals.His grimoires, which read like scientist’s process books, recorded many occasions when Aleister and those asked to join him, would ingest large amounts of narcotics and natural stimulants to achieve a higher state of conscientiousness and open their minds to events that would enlighten the participants. Experimentation in such arenas was frowned upon and in some cases, the act of performing a blasphemous ritual as he often performed, was illegal. His connection with the other side of the human brain can be called “cutting edge” however, Crowley’s grimoires were often dismissed as “drug induced gibberish”.
Within the framework of magical operations, Aleister was meticulous in the execution of rituals. He would labor over the details and weigh the effects of each slight deviation from the original working to gauge the expected result. He also looked at magick as cumulative or “cross – collateralized”, which built upon the earlier building block; increasing power and heightening the magician’s experience. Nothing was taboo, too sinister or any idea dismissed without fully exploring the possibilities that might reap benefits. Aleister was anything but shy and if the ritual called for him to be treated with violence, disdain and abusively injured, so mote it be.
Aleister Crowley was a well-known member of the group Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Temple of the East) which closely resembled the Freemasons and Masonic Lodge until Aleister joined. He led the association in a different direction which adopted Thelema as the core principle. The Book of the Law communicated two of Crowley’s best known verses which are still used quite often even today. First, the groundwork for his belief and theology was laid with a simple phrase; “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will” which is cited regularly by those practitioners of all magical arts. He was never quick to dismiss anyone’s ideas or beliefs without first evaluating and contrasting the belief compared to his very own.
Aleister was always fascinated with lines, angles and voids created by an enclosed symbol, especially a unicursal creation. Aleister’s unicursal hexagram is a star that can be drawn in one line without stopping the continuous flow. Geometric shapes were often drawn by Crowley to illustrate his projections occurring in astral travels. He believed “reason” was shielded by logic and by understanding motivation, one could clearly look deep into the logical progression of magick. Transitional Logic and Cognitive Modeling were paramount to understanding the results of magick rituals and by disseminating the logic relationships, one could also change the variables to estimate the results of a ritual, having slightly changed the inputs and elements. The idea was revolutionary for its time and the general population was too critical of Crowley to even seriously consider the possibility that he might very well have a theorem that was truly brilliant. He did not help his cause when the press ran articles about his magical escapades including homosexual encounters, spells / hexes, animal sacrifice and a report revealing that Aleister had eaten his own feces as well as the feces of others in his ritual group. Reports of killing animals during sexual intercourse did not help his cause at all.
Aleister was also an avid Astrologer and he studied astrology almost as in-depth as magick. Evangeline Adams was one of the most important influences on the development of American astrology and Crowley developed a relationship with Adams that was based upon their mutual passion of studying the stars and planets. The two would collaborate on articles, papers and books about astrological aspects and the relationship of celestial bodies and planetary orbits. Crowley also used many astrological illustrations and references in his magical writings as well. One such reference was used to explain how a person cannot readily change their path through life and how inertia plays an important role in continuing the established directional path and momentum: “There are no ‘standards of Right’. Ethics is balderdash. Each Star must go on its own orbit. To hell with “moral principle”; there is no such thing.”
So, I have pointed out some facts and observations of Aleister Crowley; some good and some “not so good”. To me, he is truly a pioneer that was perhaps a few generations ahead of his time. I read and study his works from time to time and I appreciate his dedication to his craft. His entire life reads like a grimoire of magick, experimentation, excess and theories “tried and proven”. Because Crowley and searchers like him have documented so much – so well, we are able to take advantage of his efforts which allows us to be light years ahead of where we would be had he never written even an article about magick. We should recognize the advantages we have and the knowledge passed down to us by Crowley. His efforts of being totally uninhibited have allowed seekers to “pick up where he left off” in the never-ending quest for increased magical knowledge. We are better magicians, seekers, followers, practitioners and ultimately more powerful because of this man. Yes, he was eccentric and his approach to the magical arts was unorthodox (and stomach turning as well) however, he blazed a path into history and for his efforts and sharing of his art form, we are better for having access to his writings and privileged to do some of the same workings that he not only practiced, but actually created.
Aleister Crowley will live forever and his words will be shared for all eternity; which is something he could only dream of in his time.