Aleister Crowley was perhaps the most controversial
and misunderstood personality to figure in the new era of modern day witchcraft. Known
by the popular press of his time as “The Great Beast” and “The Wickedest Man in the World”, Crowley
was a powerful magician, poet, prophet and famed occultist. He was also a one-time
witch, though most of the elders of the craft would discredit him the title.
Crowley like many great men before him, was a man
before his time. He lived in a society that could little understand him or appreciated
his latent genius. His writings so shocked the peoples of his era that he was
robbed of the praise that it merited, and as a poet he never received the recognition he deserved.
Crowley was born on the 12th October 1875 in Leamington
Spa, Warwickshire. His parents Edward Crowley and his wife Emily were wealthy
brewers and the epitome of respectability. They were also devout Christians and
staunch members of the Plymouth Brethren sect. They brought up young Crowley
in an atmosphere of pious religious narrow-mindedness, against which he constantly rebelled.
His whole life thereafter seems to have been a revolt against his parents and everything they stood for. His father died when he was 11 years old.
After the death of his father, Crowley inherited
the family fortune and went on to be educated at Trinity College Cambridge. There
he wrote and studied poetry. He loved the out-doors life and was a capable mountain
climber, in pursuit of which he attempted some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas.
In 1898 he published his first book of poetry called "Aceldama, A Place to Bury Strangers In", a philosophical poem
by a 'Gentleman of the University of Cambridge' in 1898'. In the preface he describes
how God and Satan had fought for his soul and states: “God conquered –
and now I have only one doubt left – which of the twain was God”?
It was while he was at Trinity that Crowley became
interested in the occult and with his roommate Allan Bennett, they began to study whatever they could. Crowley soon discovered that he was excited by descriptions of torture and blood. He liked to fantasize about being degraded and abused by a 'Scarlet Women', one who was dominant, wicked
One of the books he read about this time was by
the author 'Arthur Edward Waite', entitled “The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts”.
It hinted at a secret brotherhood of occultists and Crowley became even more intrigued.
He wrote to Waite for more information and was referred to "The Cloud upon the Sanctuary – By Carl von Exkartshausen". This book tells of the 'Great White Brotherhood' and Crowley determined he wanted
to join this group and advance to its highest levels. Later that year on the
18th November 1898, he and Bennett both joined the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn', the elusive Great White Brotherhood
(see 'S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the Hermetic Order
of the Golden Dawn').
In 1899 Crowley is reported to have become a member of
one of “Old George Pickingill’s” hereditary covens situated in the New Forrest, although apparently he was
not welcome for long (see 'Old George Pickingill'). It is alleged
that he obtained his 'Second Degree' before being dismissed due to his contemptuous attitude toward women, failure to attend
rituals with regularity, his personal ego and sexual perversion (Crowley had a bias toward homosexuality and the bizarre,
shocking during his time even amongst witches). The priestess of his coven later
described him as “a dirty-minded, evilly-disposed and vicious little monster!”
As well as being dismissed and outcaste by the New
Forrest witches, all was not well within the Golden Dawn. By this time Crowley
had moved out of Trinity Collage without earning his degree, and taken a flat in Chancery Lane, London. There he renamed himself 'Count Vladimir' and began to pursue his occult studies on a full-time basis. Crowley had a natural aptitude for magic and advanced quickly through the ranks of
the Golden Dawn, but the London lodge leaders considered him unsuitable for advancement into the second order. Crowley went to Paris in 1899 to see 'S.L. MacGregor Mathers', the then head of the Order and insisted
that he be initiated into the second Order. Mathers at the time was experiencing
growing dissension to his absolute rule from London, and sensed in Crowley an ally.
To the consternation of the London lodge he readily agreed to Crowley's request and initiated him into the second order.
However their allegiance was an uneasy one, for Mathers
like Crowley was a powerful magician and both were intensely competitive. Mathers
taught Crowley 'Abra-Melin' magic but neither attained any of the grades of the A\A\.
They quarreled constantly and allegedly engaged in magical warfare. Mathers
is said to have sent an astral vampire to attack Crowley who responded with an army of demons led by Beelzebub. In April 1900, Mathers due to problems within the London lodge, dispatched Crowley back to England as his
'Special Envoy' where he made an abortive attempt to regain control. Shortly
thereafter both Mathers and Crowley were expelled from the order.
Crowley began to travel, mostly in the East studying
Eastern Occult systems and 'Tantric Yoga'; he also studied 'Buddhism' and the 'I Ching'.
Then for a time he lived in an isolated setting near to Loch Ness in Scotland.
In 1903 he met and then married Rose Kelly, sister of the well-known artist Sir Gerald Kelly. She bore him one child. While they where on holiday in Egypt
the following year, April 1904, he and Rose took part in a magical ritual during which he alleges to have received a message
from the God's. As a result of this communication he wrote down the first three
chapters of his most famous book “Liber Legis, the Book of Law”. This
book contains his oft-quoted dictum: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole
of the Law. Love is the Law, Love under Will”, upon which Crowley based
the rest of his life and teachings.
In 1909 Crowley began to explore levels of the astral
plane with his assistant, a poet called “Victor Neuberg”; they used 'Enochian' magic. Crowley believed he crossed the Abyss and united his consciousness with the universal consciousness. He describes the astral journeys in “The Vision and the Voice”, which
was first published in his periodical “The Equinox” and then posthumously in 1949.
Never far from controversy in 1909 through to 1913,
Crowley serialized the secret rituals of the Golden Dawn in his magazine 'the Equinox', which he also used as vehicle for
his poetry. Mathers who had written most of the rituals and who was still his
greatest antagonist, tried but failed to get a legal injunction to stop him. His
action only served to gained Crowley more press publicity and notoriety.
By now Crowley was fast becoming infamous as a Black
magician and Satanist, he openly identified himself with the number 666, the biblical number for the antichrist. He also kept with him a series of 'Scarlet Women'; the best known of these was Leah Hirsig, the so-called
“Ape of Thoth”. Together they would indulge in drinking sessions,
drugs and sexual magic. It is believed that Crowley made several attempts with
several of these women to beget a 'Magical child', none of which worked and instead he fictionalized his attempts in a book
called “Moonchild”, published in 1929.
In 1912 Crowley became involved with the British
section of the O.T.O. (the Ordo Temple Orientis or Order of the Temple of the East), a German occult order practicing
magic. He then moved and lived in America from 1915 to 1919, moving again in
1920 to Sicily where he established the notorious Abbey of Thelema at Cefalu.
In Sicily he proceeded to involve himself in Italian
occultism and in 1922 became the head of the 'Ordo Temple Orientis'. However
(as he routinely did) he began to attract more bad publicity. The press denounced
him as “The Wickedest Man in the World” because of the alleged satanic goings on in the Abbey. It has now come to light that many of the allegations were false and were no more than press sensationalism. However their effect had serious repercussions for Crowley. In 1923 Mussolini the then ruler of Italy stepped in and expelled him from Sicily.
Crowley wondered around for a while visiting such places
as Tunisia and Germany before settling for a time in France. While in France
he engaged as his secretary the services of another aspiring magician 'Israel Regardie'.
Regardie would later become famous himself and played a prominent role in exposing the complete rituals of the 'Golden
Dawn' to the public (see Israel Regardie). Crowley continued
to travel around Europe during which time he picked up a growing heroin addiction, a habit he would suffer from for the rest
of his life. Back in England in 1929 he met and married his second wife 'Maria
Ferrari de Miramar'. The marriage took place in Leipzig, Germany.
In 1932 Crowley met with 'Sybil Leek' another famous witch
and became a frequent visitor to her home. Sybil a hereditary witch was only
nine years old at the time and later wrote in her autobiography "Diary of a Witch" - (New York: Signet, 1969), that Crowley
talked to her about witchcraft. He taught her the words of power and instructed
her on the use of certain words for their vibratory qualities when working with magick (see Sybil Leek).
Already notorious and well known to the press, Crowley
then became involved in a famous and sensational libel case. In 1934 before Mr.
Justice Swift, he sued Nina Hamnett a prominent sculptress. Nina had published
a book “Laughing Torso” (Constable and Co., London, 1932) in which Crowley alleged she had libeled him by saying
he that the practiced black magic. As the case proceeded the other side produced
such evidence of Crowley’s bizarre life-style and scandalous writings (as they were considered at that time), that the
justice was horrified. Crowley lost the case and was forced into bankruptcy,
much to the delight of the popular press who again had a field day.
In his penultimate year 1946, a mutual friend 'Arnold Crowther' introduced Crowley to 'Gerald B. Gardner'. His meetings
with Gardner would later lead to controversy over the authenticity of Gardner’s original 'Book of Shadows'. It was alleged that Gardner paid Crowley to write it for him? But
this has now been discounted. While it did contain some of Crowley’s writings,
this was the result of Gardner and Crowley comparing notes on rituals used in 'Old George Pickingill’s' covens in the
New Forrest area. Doreen Valiente in her book "Witchcraft for Tomorrow” does much to
shed light on this controversy.
At the time of his meetings with Gerald Gardner,
Crowley was a feeble old man living in retirement at a private hotel in Hastings, barely kept alive by the use of drugs. It was here that he passed from this world into the next on the 1st December 1947. Unrepentant and unbowed he left this world with a final snub at the society that had
so misunderstood him, he left instructions that he was to be cremated and instead of the usual religious service, his 'Hymn
to Pan' and other extracts from his writings was to be proclaimed from the pulpit. Finally
his ashes were to be sent to his disciples in America.
In many ways Aleister Crowley was not a well-liked
man, but he influenced and had an effect on the build up to the new era of modern witchcraft.
His knowledge of witchcraft and magick was profound and without question, and he has passed on that knowledge through
his books. In today’s more liberal society more and more of Crowley’s
books are being reprinted as we begin to appreciate his strange genius. Indeed
some of his books have now gained classical status. These include: Gnostic Mass
and The Book of Law (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1977) from which portions of the well known “Charge of the Goddess”
were written by Doreen Valiente. Other books include: Magick in Theory and Practice,
777 And Other Qabalistic Writing and The Book of Thoth to mention just a few.
Written and compiled by
Bron : www.controverscial.com/ Aleister%20Crowley.htm