The purpose of this essay is not to condemn, endorse, or praise Aleister Crowley. But it is written to give some meaningful insights into the man who left a lasting imprint on Western Magick. What then, was the genius of Aleister Crowley? Let me share my personal insights on this larger-than-life figure known throughout the world.
Aleister Crowley was born in England on October 12,1875 and died peacefully there on December 1, 1947. He was brought up in a true Victorian setting, and his family had money. Like most Victorians, he did reflect to some degree the temper of the time, and his prejudices and biases were typically English. His family brought him up in a strict Christian environment.
Crowley had many visions, but probably the most important one was that he sought to replace all established religions with a religion that relied on four items: science, sacred knowledge, sex, and magick. His most famous statement is, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, Love under Will.” This statement governed his teachings and his life.
Crowley was initiated into the secret order of the Golden Dawn in 1898 and came into contact with many important figures of the time — such as A. E. Waite, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and William Butler Yeats — who were also members. He would later break with the secret order in 1900. During 1912 he joined the Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of Eastern Templars, aka O.T.O.)
Crowley was married to Rose Edith Kelly and Maria de Miramar and was involved with numerous women. His sexual appetite was well-known, and documented.During his lifetime, he would father several children, incuding Nuit Lilith, Lola Zaza, Anne Lea, Astarte Pathea, and a son he named Alesiter Ataturk. He was openly bisexual.
For a time, he lived and wrote in the United States from 1915 to 1919 and in 1920, he moved to Sicily, where he created the Abbey of Thelema at Cefalu and was ordained a God by his followers. Because of his rituals and activities at the Abbey of Thelema, Mussolini expelled him from Sicily.
A life of wandering and gathering of sacred knowledge comprised Crowley's existence. He believed that each individual was capable of fulfilling his or her own destiny. Although now forgotten, the historical fact is that Crowley was considered one of the greatest mountain climbers of his era. Crowley experimented with psychedelic drugs.
Blessed with a keen and inquisitive mind, Crowley was also a shrewd promoter, skilled showman, and a master of advertising hype. He would do (and did) whatever it took to promote and spread his teachings. He was well-known for his charismatic personality. A prolific writer, he was also an artist.
His masterpiece is The Book of the Law (1938), also known as Liber Legis. Among his writings are found Aceldama (1898), The Star and the Garter (1903), Why Jesus Wept (1904), The Book of Lies (1913), Magick in Theory and Practice (1929), Moonchild (1929), The Equinox of the Gods (1937), and The Book of Thoth (1944). His poetry was published in several volumes over the years, and his Eight Lectures on Yoga was published in 1985. He used the word “magick” to define incantations, spells, invocations, and related teachings.
Crowley was unfairly known as “The Beast” because of his activities and scandals. Crowley can be viewed in retrospect as the most influential figure in Western Magick. Some critics have stated they see a kindred spirit in the writings of American author H. P. Lovecraft. For those interested in Crowley's prolific writings, it is best to check the numerous computer websites available or the public library.
Crowley was neither good nor evil. He was determined to be, simply put, Crowley. That he was that has made him a legend as one of the greatest scholars of magick to have lived. Following his death, a special container with his ashes was sent to his devoted followers in the United States.
This writing is meant to reveal some aspects of who and what Aleister Crowley was. I share it with the reader as a personal perspective from an Adept and Master of the Temple of the Golden Dawn.