Aleister Crowley, also known by the names Perdurabo, The beast 666, or Chio Khan lived according to his occult teachings. May your only law be to do whatever you want. Aleister Crowley paid for materialized evil during his life. He was embodied into, and he was an idol for flower children in the 1960s.
Aleister Crowley was performing ceremonial magic (magick – as he spelled it) and black magic as its popularity skyrocketed in the 20th century. Crowley’s magical practice and speculations on human sacrifice were a loud endorsement of him. They also contributed to the interest in him as an Occultist from Britain who served in British Intelligence Services.
He was a man of uncontrollable sexuality (his acts are well documented), a poet, an occultist, and a mystic. It is no coincidence that he lived during turbulent times, governed by strict morals that suppressed human sexuality and the rapid social changes from which many fled to the occult.
Aleister Crowley Early Years as a Magician
Edward Alexander Crowley was born Edward Alexander Crowley in September 1875 in Leamington, England. He was the son of the owner of a small beer. Both of his parents were committed followers of the Plymouth Brothers sect. Ed was 11 when his strict father died. After that, Ed became difficult to manage. His mother called him the Beast of the Apocalypse in a fit of anger. Edward somehow left.
His mother accompanied him to London to visit his uncle. The uncle was well-respected in religious circles and a philanthropist. He was also a wicked, hypocritical man who only reinforced Crowley’s disgust with bourgeois society.
At that time, Aleister Crowley’s fixation on sexuality began to manifest itself, probably as compensation for the lack of love and closeness from religiously passionate parents. He lost his temper at fourteen with a maid in his mother’s bed. After the affair broke down, his uncle and mother fired the woman. She lived on the streets as an addict and prostitute until they found her murder.
To the tops and peaks of bliss
Crowley enrolled at Harvard University at the age twenty-one. Trinity College in OxfordHe studied philosophy, psychology and classical philology at the University of California, Berkeley. He was also a skilled chess player and excelled in his studies. He was fascinated by magic at that time. He was able to experience some enlightenment during his journey to Sweden and changed his name to Aleister. He painted and wrote poetry during his studies. However, he also wrote short stories and plays. He published his works on his own, but with little success.
One critic rated his collection erotic poems under the all-encompassing title White Spots:
“the most disgusting work of English literature”.
At the age of twenty-three, Aleister Crowley joined The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, one of countless “secret” occult communities. Its members included poets William Butler Yeats (and Arthur Edward Waite). As Crowley began to call himself, Brother Perdurabo (Latin for “I will persevere”) was most closely associated with a certain Allen Bennett.
Together, they created magical rituals using hashish, opium and cocaine. Crowley was one of the first to discover the effects mescaline. Bennett, however, left his friend to become Ceylon’s Buddhist monk. Crowley was fired. The brothers were offended at Bennett’s bisexuality and his promiscuity.
He traveled to Scotland to perfect his magic rituals, and then embarked on a series worldwide journeys. He was inducted into the ceremonies of the Mexican Indians, traveled through India and Hong Kong, and was then taken to the Himalayas. Crowley, a skilled mountaineer and half-century ahead of Hillary and Norgay, set out to conquer Mount Everest in March 1902, but he was denied permission.
He didn’t reach the summit, he was blinded by snow and the effects of drinking champagne unregulated during the ascent. He also contracted malaria. The expedition to Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the globe, was also marred by a group dispute that led to the split of the group and the deaths of several people.
A prophet of vice
Back in Scotland, Crowley married Rose Kelly, a friend’s sister, who allowed him to avoid being forced into a local cantata. Crowley fell in love with Rose Kelly on their honeymoon. They moved to Cairo pretending to be the Persian nobleman Chio Kan. Their daughter Nuit Ma Athanoor Hecate SAPpho Jezebel Lith was born there. She died two years later from typhus. The marriage was soon to fall apart.
During his stay in Egypt, Crowley was visited by “his personal guardian angel”, who dictated Liber Al Vel Legis, the Book of the Law, to him during a nightly ritual. It contains the famous premise that “to do what you want, let alone be the law,” and that “love is the law, love subject to the will.”
Theodor Reuss, founder of Quasi-Templar Templi Orientis, approached him in 1912. Crowley became Baphomet’s brother, named after a demon with a goat’s head and a pentagram on his forehead, and head of the British branch of the Order, the Supreme and Holy King of Ireland, the island of Ion, and all the British belonging to the Gnostic temple.
He wrote several anti-British pamphlets and pro-German pamphlets after the Great War, but in reality he was acting as an agent for the British monarchy. Even in the United States, he was able to perfect his sexual magic with prostitutes.
After the war, Crowley left with his mistresses and supporters in Sicily, where they founded Thelema’s abbey near the town of Cefalù. The community’s life was determined by a strict order. They held a daily ritual procession to honor the Sun, and celebrated wild ceremonies sexual ceremonial magic at night.
Crowley pupils regarded it as harmless and accepted it. After Pauper, his second child, the master fell into depression and began to use heroin. Besides, in 1923, 23-year-old adoptive “magical son” Raoul Loveday succumbed to Crowley’s blood poisoning. Reportedly after a ritual in which he drank cat’s blood, but more likely after a gulp of water from a dirty well in the mountains.
The shadow of a fallen angel
A complete media storm broke out at home in Britain, with boulevard readers swallowing more or less true or utterly eloquent details about the obscenities perpetrated by “the most discerning man in the world.” An equally intense campaign ended with a later attempt to publish Crowley’s biography, The Drug Diary, preferring to withdraw it from the sale.
The publically despised, homeless, and skinny heroin addict was not without followers or mistresses. With whom he had other illegitimate offspring. Many of his associates ended up in a bottle, in a madhouse, and by suicide.
Aleister Crowley, age seventy-two, died in 1947 from chronic pneumonia.
His life was a rebellion against the ultra-conservative patriarchate in the nineteenth century. “My mother was by nature a sensual woman, and there is no doubt that sexual oppression has brought her to the brink of madness,” Crowley wrote. Crowley stated that society can’t be balanced and people cannot be happy if morality prevents them from experiencing the deepest human needs, namely sexuality.
“As long as sexual relationships remain complicated by religious, social, and financial considerations, they will cause all kinds of cowardly, dishonest, and disgusting behavior,”
Crowley’s work was rediscovered in the 1960s as people experimented with new spirituality and drugs. Crowley’s lyrics were read by nonconforming intellectuals and long-haired hippies from painted vans.
Twenty years later, he has become a pop culture icon. The Beatles included him on the cover of their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In later years, punks were also known as the Beast. However, they also included metalheads, subcultures and many industrial acts. Crowley was ranked at a respectable seventy third in the television rankings of the great Britons.
The beast is simultaneously an interesting figure, a prophet of hedonism, and a personification the idea that human nature can’t be suppressed. She could be a little more docile.
Aleister Crowley, The Golden Dawn Order
Crowley, as many other religious skeptics, became interested in occultism. He joined the Rosicrucian-inspired Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (in 1898). The poet William Butler Yeats was a rival of Crowley’s in the London Golden Dawn circle.
Crowley claimed to have experienced mystical experiences. He wrote The Book of the Law (a prose poem he claimed was given him by Aiwass, a discarnate, on a 1904 trip to Egypt). In it, Jesus stated his most famous teaching: “Do what thou wilt shall be a complete law.” The notion was not novel—the French poet François Rabelais had stated it more than 300 years before in Gargantua and Pantagruel—but Crowley used it as the foundation for a new religion he termed Thelema, Thelma being the Greek word for “will.”
We have already covered a lot about Golden Dawn mysticism in previous posts. Please refer back to the archive for additional information.
The Book of the Law was recognized by the Ordo Templi Orientis (a mystical order of German origin), as scripture. Crowley formed his own organization, AA, in 1907, using initials that stood for the Latin phrase for “silver star.” Beginning in 1909, he published his teachings in the monthly The Equinox. J.F.C. Fuller, who was a well-known military strategist, historian, and aide, was his guide in the early years.
Crowley emigrated to England in 1900 to explore the East. In 1906, he returned to establish a mystical organization to continue where the Golden Dawn had left him. He dubbed this order the A.’. A.’. (Astron Argon, Astrum Argentium, or Silver Star) soon became the major means of transmitting Crowley’s ideas.
Crowley was a US citizen during World War I. He wrote to The Fatherland, a pro-German journal. Following the war, he relocated to Cefalù, on the Italian island of Sicily, where he turned a villa into the Abbey of Crowley Thelema. The Diary of a Drug Fiend (1922) was his first novel. It was based on actual experiences. Crowley was labeled the “wickedest man in the world” in the British popular press after the death of a teenage follower in Sicily, purportedly after partaking in sacrilegious rituals, leading to his deportation from Italy in 1923. Crowley returned home to England in the 1930s, having spent his inheritance money on travel and extravagant lifestyles. His last major accomplishment was The Book of Thoth (1944), where he interpreted a new interpretation of a biblical text. tarot card deckNamed the Thoth by him, which he co-created with Frieda Harris.
Crowley died in poverty in 1947 in an English roominghouse. However, he was a figure of interest in popular cultural after his death. His photograph was used on the cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Jimmy Page – the guitarist for Led Zeppelin, purchased a property originally owned by Crowley near Loch Ness in Scotland.
Cambridge University: 1895–1898
Crowley began a three year term at Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1895. He adopted the name Aleister instead of Edward and was enrolled for the Moral Science Tripos, which he was studying philosophy. With the permission of his tutor, he switched from philosophy to English literature.
Crowley spent most of his time at University involved in his hobbies. He was elected president of the Chess Club and practiced the game for 2 hours per day. He briefly considered a professional chess career.
Crowley also pursued a passion for poetry and literature, especially Richard Francis Burton’s writings. Many of his poems were published in student magazines like The Granta, Cambridge Magazine, or Cantab.
From 1894 until 1898, he went on vacation to the Alps to climb every year, often with his buddy Oscar Eckenstein, and in 1897 he made the first ascent of the Mönch without a guide. These achievements earned him respect within the Alpine mountaineering community.
For many years, I despised being named Alick, partly because of the horrible sound and appearance of the term, and partly because it was my mother’s name. Edward didn’t seem to fit, and the diminutives Ted or Ned were much worse. Sandy recommended two-hair and freckles as Alexander was too long. I’d heard somewhere that the best names for becoming famous were those that began with a dactyl and ended with a spondee, as at the end of a hexameter: names like Jeremy Taylor. Aleister Crowley fulfilled these requirements. Aleister is the Gaelic version of Alexander. It would fulfill all my romantic fantasies.
Aleister Crowley is his new name.
Crowley experienced his first significant mystical encounter while on vacation to Stockholm in December 1896.
Several biographers, including Lawrence Sutin, Richard Kaczynski, and Tobias Churton, believed this was due to Crowley’s first same-sex sexual experience, which enabled him to recognize his bisexuality. Crowley lived a robust sex lifestyle at Cambridge, mostly with female prostitutes. He eventually entered into same-sex relationships, despite being illegally sex with them. Crowley formed a relationship with Herbert Charles Pollitt in October 1897, who was president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club. They split up because Pollitt did not share Crowley’s growing interest in Western esotericism, which was a split that Crowley would lament for many years.
Crowley visited Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1897. Later, Crowley stated that he was studying Russian to prepare for a future career as a diplomat.
A brief sickness in October 1897 prompted thoughts of mortality and “the futility of all human endeavor,” and Crowley abandoned all plans for a diplomatic career in favor of pursuing an interest in the occult.
A.E. was purchased by Waite in March 1898. Waite’s The Book of Black Magic and Pacts, followed by Karl von Eckartshausen’s The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary, to advance his occult studies.
Crowley privately published 100 copies in 1898 of his poem Aceldama. A Place to Bury Strangers. It was not a great success.
Leonard Smithers released Aceldama. Crowley also published several other poems in the same year, including White Stains Decadent. This book of pornographic poetry was printed in foreign countries to avoid being banned by British authorities.
He left Cambridge in July 1898, despite a “first-class” showing in his 1897 exams and steady “second class honors” performances before that.
Travel and Enlightenment
Crowley, who was born in England, fled England to Ceylon in 1904. He spent two years studying Buddhism there. He traveled through India in 1906 and returned via Egypt in 2006. He spent the rest of his life abroad, first in Paris, then London and finally Cairo. During this period, he wrote The Book of Lies, a work that has been called ‘a kind of autobiography’. It isn’t clear if it was ever completed, or if any copies survived.
Drugs and death
Crowley returned to England after this setback but soon realized that he was no longer able to exert any influence over the movement. Crowley was living in London in poverty by 1925 and was addicted to morphine, cocaine, and other drugs. He started taking laudanum daily a year later. This led to further addiction, and eventually to cirrhosis.
He suffered a massive cardiac attack while staying at the Hotel Terminus, Paris, on 30 September 1926.
He is still revered as one of Thelema’s most prominent members of Golden Dawn. Many Thelema followers regard him as the most prominent figure of the Golden Dawn secret societies of the 20th century.