THE KEY OF JOY IS DISOBEDIENCE Aleister Crowley TEE SHIRT
ALEISTER CROWLEY MAGICIAN
"TITTER YE NOT"
Never get stuck behind the devil in a post office queue.
For the devil can take many forms.
I've just read that some devil worshippers are holding a festival dedicated to Satan and Hell.
Sounds like a fete worse than death.
I just bought a medicine ball for my mate Satan,
a rowing machine for Incubus and a bench press for my pet Succubus.
I feel better for exercising my demons.
I just watched The Exorcist.
I don't know what possessed me.
A bunch of satanic occult worshipers have moved in next door to me...
...talk about the neighbours from hell.
Ware, nor of good nor ill, what aim hath act? Without its climax,
death, what savour hath Life? an impeccable machine, exact.
He paces an inane and pointless path. To glut brute appetites, his
How tedious were he fit to comprehend Himself! More, this our
noble element. Of fire in nature, love in spirit, unkenned Life hath
no spring, no axle, and no end.
His body a bloody-ruby radiant With noble passion, sun-souled
Lucifer. Swept through the dawn colossal, swift aslant On Eden's
He blessed nonentity with every curse And spiced with sorrow the
dull soul of sense. Breathed life into the sterile universe, With Love
and Knowledge drove out innocence.
The Key of Joy is disobedience. Aleister Crowley
Crowley was born as Edward Alexander Crowley at 30 Clarendon
Square in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, on 12 October
1875. His father, Edward Crowley (1834–87), was trained as an
engineer, but his share in a lucrative family brewing business,
Crowley's Alton Ales, had allowed him to retire before his son was born. His mother, Emily Bertha
Bishop (1848–1917), came from a Devonshire-Somerset family and had a strained relationship with
her son; she described him as "the Beast", a name that he revelled in. The couple had been married
at London's Kensington Registry Office in November 1874, and were evangelical Christians.
Crowley's father had been born a Quaker, but had converted to the Exclusive Brethren a faction
of a Christian fundamentalist group known as the Plymouth Brethren, with Emily joining him
upon marriage. Crowley's father was particularly devout, spending his time as a travelling
preacher for the sect and reading a chapter from the Bible to his wife and son after breakfast
every day. Following the death of their baby daughter in 1880, in 1881 the Crowleys moved to
Redhill, Surrey. At the age of 8, Crowley was sent to H.T. Habershon's evangelical Christian
boarding school in Hastings, and then to Ebor preparatory school in Cambridge, run by the Reverend Henry d'Arcy Champney, whom Crowley considered a sadist.
In March 1887 he was 11, his father died of tongue cancer. Crowley described this as a turning point in his life, and he always maintained an admiration of his father, describing him as "his hero and his friend". Inheriting a third of his father's wealth, he began
misbehaving at school and was harshly punished by Champney Crowley's family removed him from the school when he developed albuminuria. He then attended Malvern College and Tonbridge School, both of which he despised and left after a few terms. He
became increasingly sceptical regarding Christianity, pointing out inconsistencies in the Bible to his religious teachers, and went against the Christian morality of his upbringing by smoking, masturbating, and having sex with prostitutes from whom he contracted gonorrhea . Sent to live with a Brethren tutor in Eastbourne, he undertook chemistry courses at Eastbourne College.
Crowley developed interests in chess poetry and mountain climbing, climbing, and in 1894 climbed Beachy Head before visiting the
Alps and joining the Scottish Mountaineering Club. The following year he returned to the Bernese Alps, the Eiger, Trift, Jungfrau,
Mönch, and Wetterhorn.
Crowley later claimed to have had his first significant mystical experience while on holiday in Stockholm in December 1896. Several biographers, including Lawrence Sutin, Richard Kaczynski, and Tobias Churton, believed that this was the result of Crowley's first same-sex sexual experience, which enabled him to recognise his bisexuality . At Cambridge, Crowley maintained a vigorous sex life, largely with female prostitutes, from one of whom he caught syphilis, but eventually he took part in same sex activities, despite
their illegality. In October 1897, Crowley met Herbert Charles
Pollitt , president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club, and the two entered into a relationship. They broke apart because Pollitt did not share Crowley's increasing interest in Western esotericism, a breakup that Crowley would regret for many years.
In 1897, Crowley travelled to St Petersburg in Russia, later claiming that he was trying to learn Russian as he was considering a future diplomatic career there. Biographers Richard Spence and Tobias Churton suggested that Crowley had done so as an intelligence agent under the employ of the British secret service , speculating that he had been enlisted while at Cambridge.
In October 1897, a brief illness triggered considerations of mortality and "the futility of all human endeavour", and Crowley abandoned all thoughts of a diplomatic career in favour of pursuing an interest in the occult. In March 1898, he obtained A.E. Waite's The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts (1898) , and then Karl von Eckartshausen's The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary (1896), furthering his occult interests. In 1898 Crowley privately published 100 copies of his poem Aceldama:
A Place to Bury Strangers In, but it was not a particular success. That same year he published a string of other poems, including White Stains, a Decadent
collection of erotic poetry that was printed abroad lest its publication be prohibited by the British authorities. In July 1898, he left Cambridge, not having taken any degree at all despite a "first class"showing in his 1897 exams and consistent "second class honours" results before that.
Crowley moved into his own luxury flat at 67–69 Chancery
Lane and soon invited a senior Golden Dawn member, Allan
Bennett, to live with him as his personal magical tutor. Bennett
taught Crowley more about ceremonial magic and the ritual
use of drugs, and together they performed the rituals of the
Goetia, until Bennett left for South Asia to study Buddhism. In
November 1899, Crowley purchased Boleskine House in
Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness in Scotland. He developed
a love of Scottish culture, describing himself as the "Laird of
Boleskine", and took to wearing traditional highland dress,
even during visits to London. He continued writing poetry,
publishing Jezebel and Other Tragic Poems, Tales of Archais,
Songs of the Spirit, Appeal to the American Republic, and
Jephthah in 1898–99; most gained mixed reviews from literary
critics, although Jephthah was considered a particular critical
Crowley soon progressed through the lower grades of the
Golden Dawn, and was ready to enter the group's inner Second Order. He was unpopular in the group; his bisexuality and libertine
lifestyle had gained him a bad reputation, and he had developed feuds with some of the members, including W.B. Yeats. When the Golden Dawn's London lodge refused to initiate Crowley into the Second Order, he visited Mathers in Paris, who personally admitted him into the Adeptus Minor Grade. A schism had developed between Mathers and the London members of the Golden Dawn, who were unhappy with his autocratic rule. Acting under Mathers' orders, Crowley – with the help of his mistress and fellow initiate
Elaine Simpson – attempted to seize the Vault of the Adepts, a temple space at 36 Blythe Road in West Kensington, from the London lodge members. When the case was taken to court, the judge ruled in favour of the London lodge, as they had paid for the space's rent, leaving both Crowley and Mathers isolated from the group. Spence suggested that the entire scenario was part of an intelligence operation to undermine Mathers' authority.
In 1900, Crowley travelled to Mexico via the United States, settling in Mexico City and taking a local woman as his mistress. Developing a love of the country, he continued experimenting with ceremonial magic, working with John Dee's Enochian
invocations . He later claimed to have been initiated into Freemasonry while in the city, and spending time writing, he wrote a play based on Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser as well as a series of poems, published as Oracles (1905). Eckenstein joined him later that year, and together they climbed several mountains, including Iztaccihuatl, Popocatepetl, and Colima, the latter of which they had to abandon owing to a volcanic eruption. Spence has suggested that the purpose of the trip might have been to explore Mexican oil prospects for British intelligence. Leaving Mexico, Crowley headed to San Francisco before sailing for Hawaii aboard the Nippon Maru. On the ship he had a brief affair with a married woman named Mary Alice Rogers; claiming to have fallen in love with
her, he wrote a series of poems about the romance, published as Alice:
An Adultery (1903).
In August 1898, Crowley was in Zermatt, Switzerland, where he met the chemist Julian L. Baker, and the two began discussing their common interest in alchemy. Back in London, Baker introduced Crowley to George Cecil Jones, Baker's brother in-law, and a fellow member of the occult society known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn , which had been founded in 1888. Crowley was initiated into the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn on 18 November 1898 by the group's leader, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. The ceremony took place in the Golden Dawn's Isis-Urania Temple held at London's Mark Masons Hall, where Crowley took the magical motto and name "Frater Perdurabo", which he interpreted as "I shall endure to the end". Biographers Richard Spence and Tobias Churton have suggested that Crowley joined the Order
under the command of the British secret services to monitor
the activities of Mathers, who was known to be a Carlist.
Arriving in Paris in November 1902, he hung out with his friend and
future brother-in-law, the painter Gerald Kelly, and through him
became a fixture of the Parisian arts scene, authoring a series of
poems on the work of an acquaintance, the sculptor Auguste
Rodin, published as Rodin in Rime (1907). One of those
frequenting this milieu was W. Somerset Maugham, who after
briefly meeting Crowley later used him as a model for the
character of Oliver Haddo in his novel The Magician (1908).
Returning to Boleskine in April 1903, in August Crowley wed
Gerald's sister Rose Edith Kelly in a "marriage of convenience"
to prevent her entering an arranged marriage; the marriage
appalled the Kelly family and damaged his friendship with Gerald.
Heading on a honeymoon to Paris, Cairo, and then Ceylon,
Crowley fell in love with Rose and worked to prove his affections.
While on his honeymoon, he wrote her a series of love poems,
published as Rosa Mundi and other Love Songs (1906), as well as
authoring the religious satire Why Jesus Wept (1904). In February
1904, Crowley and Rose arrived in Cairo. Claiming to be a prince
and princess, they rented an apartment in which Crowley set up a
temple room and began invoking ancient Egyptian deities, while
studying Islamic mysticism and Arabic. According to Crowley's later account, Rose regularly became delirious and informed him "they are waiting for you". On 18 March, she explained that "they" were the god Horus, and on 20 March proclaimed that "the
Equinox of the Gods has come". She led him to a nearby museum, where she showed him a seventh century BCE mortuary stele
known as the Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu; Crowley thought it important that the exhibit's number was 666, the number of the beast
in Christian belief, and in later years termed the artefact the "Stele of Revealing."
According to Crowley's own later claims, on 8 April he heard a disembodied voice that claimed to be that of Aiwass, an entity who was the messenger of Horus, or Hoor-Paar-Kraat. Crowley said that he wrote down everything the voice told him over the course of the next three days, and titled it Liber Level Legis or The Book of the Law . The book proclaimed that humanity was entering a new Aeon, and that Crowley would serve as its prophet. It stated that a supreme moral law was to be introduced in this Aeon,
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law," and that people should learn to live in tune with their Will. This book, and the philosophy that it espoused, became the cornerstone of Crowley's religion, Thelema. Crowley claimed that at the time he had been unsure what to do with The Book of the Law. Often resenting it, he said that he ignored the instructions which the text commanded him to perform, which included taking the Stele of Revealing from the museum, fortifying his own island, and translating the book
into all the world's languages. According to his account, he instead sent typescripts of the work to several occultists he knew, putting the manuscript itself away and ignoring it.
Returning to Boleskine, Crowley came to believe that Mathers had begun using magic against him, and the relationship between the two broke down. On 28 July 1905, Rose gave birth to Crowley's first child, a daughter named Lilith, with Crowley authoring the pornographic Snowdrops From a Curate's Garden to entertain his recuperating wife. He also founded a publishing company through which to publish his poetry, naming it the Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth in parody of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Among its first publications were Crowley's Collected Works, edited by Ivor Back. His poetry often received strong reviews (either positive or negative), but never sold well. In an attempt to gain more publicity, he issued a reward of £100 for the best essay on his work. The winner of this was J. F. C. Fuller, a British Army officer and military historian, whose essay, The Star in the West (1907), heralded Crowley's poetry as some of the greatest ever written.
Spending time in Moharbhanj, where he took part in big game hunting and wrote the homoerotic work The Scented Garden , Crowley met up with Rose and Lilith in Calcutta before being forced to leave India after shooting dead a native man who tried to mug him. Briefly visiting Bennett in Burma, Crowley and his family decided to tour Southern China, hiring porters and a nanny for the purpose. Spence has suggested that this trip to China was orchestrated as part of a British intelligence scheme to monitor the region's opium trade. Crowley smoked opium throughout the journey, which took the family from Tengyueh through to Yungchang,
Tali, Yunnanfu, and then Hanoi. On the way he spent much time on spiritual and magical work, reciting the "Bornless Ritual", an invocation to his Holy Guardian Angel, on a daily basis.
Upon arrival in Britain, Crowley learned that his daughter Lilith had died of typhoid in Rangoon, something he later blamed on
Rose's increasing alcoholism. Under emotional distress, his health began to suffer, and he underwent a series of surgical operations. He began short-lived romances with actress Vera "Lola" Neville and author Ada Leverson, while Rose gave birth to Crowley's second daughter, Lola Zaza, in February 1907.
With his old mentor George Cecil Jones , Crowley continued performing the Abramelin rituals at the Ashdown Park Hotel in Coulsdon, Surrey. Crowley claimed
that in doing so he attained samadhi, or union with Godhead, thereby marking a turning point in his life. Making heavy use of hashish during these rituals, he wrote an essay on "The Psychology of Hashish" (1909) in which he championed the drug as an aid to mysticism. He also claimed to have been contacted once again by Aiwass in
late October and November 1907, adding that Aiwass dictated two further texts to him, "Liber VII" and "Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente", both of which were later classified in the corpus of Holy Books of Thelema. Crowley wrote down more Thelemic Holy Books during the last two months of the year, including "Liber LXVI", "Liber Arcanorum", "Liber Porta Lucis, Sub Figura X", "Liber Tau", "Liber Trigrammaton" and "Liber DCCCXIII vel Ararita", which he again claimed to have received from a preternatural source. Crowley claimed that in June 1909, when the manuscript of The Book of the Law was rediscovered at Boleskine, he developed the opinion that Thelema represented objective truth.
Crowley's inheritance was running out. Trying to earn money, he was hired by
George Montagu Bennett, the Earl of Tankerville , to help protect him from witchcraft; recognising Bennett's paranoia as being based in his cocaine addiction, Crowley took him on holiday to France and Morocco to recuperate. In 1907, he also began taking in paying students, whom he instructed in occult and magical practice. Victor Neuburg, whom Crowley met in February 1907, became his sexual partner and closest disciple; in 1908 the pair toured northern Spain before heading to Tangier, Morocco.
The following year Neuburg stayed at Boleskine, where he and Crowley engaged in sadomasochism. Crowley continued to write prolifically, producing such works of poetry as Ambergris, Clouds Without Water, and Konx Om Pax, as well as his first attempt at an autobiography, The World's Tragedy. Recognising the popularity of short horror stories, Crowley wrote his own, some of which were published, and he also published several articles in Vanity Fair, a magazine edited by his friend Frank Harris. He also wrote Liber 777, a book of magical and Qabalistic correspondences that borrowed from Mathers and Bennett.
IN OCCULT MASONIC GEAR
In November 1907, Crowley and Jones decided to found an occult order to act as a successor to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, being aided in doing so by Fuller. The result was the A∴A∴ . The group's headquarters and temple were situated at 124 Victoria Street in central London, and their rites borrowed much from those of the Golden Dawn, but with an added Thelemic basis. Its earliest members included solicitor Richard Noel Warren, artist Austin Osman Spare, Horace Sheridan-Bickers, author George Raffalovich, Francis Henry Everard, Joseph Feilding, engineer Herbert Edward Inman, Kenneth Ward, and Charles Stansfeld Jones. In March 1909, Crowley began production of a biannual periodical titled The Equinox. He billed this periodical, which was to become the "Official Organ" of the A∴A∴, as "The Review of Scientific Illuminism".
Crowley had become increasingly frustrated with Rose's alcoholism, and in November 1909 he divorced her on the grounds of his own adultery. Lola was entrusted to Rose's care; the couple remained friends and Rose continued to live at Boleskine. Her alcoholism worsened, and as a result she was institutionalised in September 1911.
IRON MAIDEN 666
THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST
In November 1909, Crowley and Neuburg travelled to Algeria, touring the desert from El Arba to Aumale, Bou Saâda, and then Dā'leh Addin, with Crowley reciting the Quran on a daily basis. During the trip he invoked the thirty aethyrs of Enochian magic , with Neuburg recording the results, later published in The Equinox as The Vision and the Voice. Following a mountaintop sex magic ritual, Crowley also performed an invocation to the demon Choronzon involving blood sacrifice, considering the results to be a watershed in his magical career. Returning to London in January 1910, Crowley found that Mathers was suing him for publishing Golden Dawn secrets in The Equinox; the court found in favour of Crowley. The case was widely reported on in the press, with Crowley gaining wider fame. Crowley enjoyed this, and played up to the sensationalist stereotype of being a Satanist and advocate of human sacrifice, despite being neither.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.
The publicity attracted new members to the A∴A∴, among them Frank Bennett, James Bayley, Herbert Close, and James Windram. The Australian violinist Leila Waddell soon became Crowley's lover. Deciding to expand his teachings to a wider audience, Crowley developed the Rites of Artemis, a public performance of magic and symbolism featuring A∴A∴ members personifying various deities. It was first performed at the A∴A∴ headquarters, with attendees given a fruit punch containing peyote to enhance their experience. Various members of the press attended, and reported largely positively on it. In October and November 1910, Crowley decided to stage something similar, the Rites of Eleusis, at Caxton Hall, Westminster; this time press reviews were mixed. Crowley came under particular criticism from West de Wend Fenton, editor of The Looking Glass newspaper, who called him "one of the most blasphemous and cold-blooded villains of modern times". Fenton's articles suggested that Crowley and Jones were involved in homosexual activity; Crowley did not mind, but Jones unsuccessfully sued for libel. Fuller broke off his friendship and involvement with Crowley over the scandal, and Crowley and Neuburg returned to Algeria for further magical workings.
The Equinox continued publishing, and various books of literature and poetry were also published under its imprint, like Crowley's
Ambergris, The Winged Beetle, and The Scented Garden, as well as Neuburg's The Triumph of Pan and Ethel Archer's The Whirlpool. In 1911, Crowley and Waddell holidayed in Montigny-sur-Loing , where he wrote prolifically, producing poems, short stories, plays, and 19 works on magic and mysticism, including the two final Holy Books of Thelema. In Paris, he met Mary Desti, who became his next "Scarlet Woman", with the two undertaking magical workings in St. Moritz; Crowley believed that one of the Secret Chiefs, Ab-ul-Diz, was speaking through her. Based on Desti's statements when in trance, Crowley wrote the two-volume Book 4 (1912–13) and at the time developed the spelling "magick" in reference to the paranormal phenomenon as a means of distinguishing it from the stage magic of illusionists.
In early 1912, Crowley published The Book of Lies, a work of mysticism that biographer Lawrence Sutin described as "his greatest success in merging his talents as poet, scholar, and magus". The German occultist Theodor Reuss later accused him of publishing some of the secrets of his own occult order, the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) , within The Book. Crowley convinced Reuss that the similarities were coincidental, and the two became friends. Reuss appointed Crowley as head of the O.T.O's British branch, the Mysteria Mystica Maxima (MMM) , and at a ceremony in Berlin Crowley adopted the magical name of Baphomet and was proclaimed "X° Supreme Rex and Sovereign Grand Master General of Ireland, Iona, and all the Britons". With Reuss' permission, Crowley set about advertising the MMM and re-writing many O.T.O. rituals, which were then based largely on Freemasonry; his incorporation of Thelemite elements proved controversial in the group. Fascinated by the O.T.O's emphasis on sex magic, Crowley devised a magical working based on anal sex and incorporated it into the syllabus for those O.T.O. members who had been initiated into the eleventh degree.
In March 1913 Crowley acted as producer for The Ragged Ragtime Girls, a group of female violinists led by Waddell, as they performed at London's Old Tivoli theatre. They subsequently performed in Moscow for six
weeks, where Crowley had a sadomasochistic relationship with the Hungarian Anny
Ringler. In Moscow, Crowley continued to write plays and poetry, including "Hymn to Pan",
and the Gnostic Mass, a Thelemic ritual that became a key part of O.T.O. liturgy. Churton
suggested that Crowley had travelled to Moscow on the orders of British intelligence to spy
on revolutionary elements in the city. In January 1914 Crowley and Neuburg settled into an
apartment in Paris, where the former was involved in the controversy surrounding Jacob
Epstein's new monument to Oscar Wilde. Together Crowley and Neuburg performed the
six-week "Paris Working", a period of intense ritual involving strong drug use in which they
invoked the gods Mercury and Jupiter. As part of the ritual, the couple performed acts of
sex magic together, at times being joined by journalist Walter Duranty. Inspired by the
results of the Working, Crowley authored Liber Agapé, a treatise on sex magic. Following
the Paris Working, Neuburg began to distance himself from Crowley, resulting in an
argument in which Crowley cursed him.
By 1914 Crowley was living a hand-to-mouth existence, relying largely on donations from
A∴A∴ members and dues payments made to O.T.O. In May he transferred ownership of
Boleskine House to the MMM for financial reasons and in July he went
mountaineering in the Swiss Alps.
During this time the First World War broke out. After recuperating from a bout of phlebitis
Crowley set sail for the United States aboard the RMS Lusitania in October 1914. Arriving
in New York City, he moved into a hotel and began earning money writing for the American
edition of Vanity Fair and undertaking freelance work for the famed astrologer
Evangeline Adams . In the city, he continued experimenting with sex magic, through the
use of masturbation, female prostitutes, and male clients of a Turkish bathhouse; all of
these encounters were documented in his diaries.
IN CEREMONIAL GEAR
Professing to be of Irish ancestry and a supporter of Irish independence
from Great Britain, Crowley began to espouse support for Germany in
their war against Britain. He became involved in New York's pro-German
movement, and in January 1915 German spy George Sylvester Viereck
employed him as a writer for his propagandist paper, The Fatherland ,
which was dedicated to keeping the US neutral in the conflict. In later
years, detractors denounced Crowley as a traitor to Britain for this action.
In reality, Crowley was a double agent, working for the British
intelligence services to undermine Germany's operation in New York.
Many of his articles in The Fatherland were hyperbolic, for instance
comparing Kaiser Wilhelm II to Jesus Christ in July 1915 he orchestrated
a publicity stunt – reported on by The New York Times – in which he
declared independence for Ireland in front of the Statue of Liberty; the
real intention was to make the German lobby appear ridiculous in the
eyes of the American public. It has been argued that he encouraged the
German Navy to destroy the Lusitania, informing them that it would
ensure the US stayed out of the war, while in reality hoping that it would
bring the US into the war on Britain's side.
Crowley entered into a relationship with Jeanne Robert Foster, with whom he toured the West Coast. In Vancouver, headquarters of the North American O.T.O., he met with Charles Stansfeld Jones and Wilfred Talbot Smith to discuss the propagation of Thelema on the continent. In Detroit he experimented with anhalonium at Parke-Davis, then visited Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tijuana, and the Grand Canyon, before returning to New York. There he befriended Ananda Coomaraswamy and his wife Alice Richardson; Crowley and Richardson performed sex magic in April 1916, following which she became pregnant and then miscarried. Later that year he took a "magical retirement" to a cabin by Lake Pasquaney owned by Evangeline Adams. There, he made heavy use of drugs and undertook a ritual after which he proclaimed himself "Master Therion". He also wrote several short stories based on J.G. Frazer's The Golden Bough and a work of literary criticism, The Gospel According to Bernard Shaw.
In 1918, Crowley went on a magical retreat in the wilderness of Esopus Island on the Hudson River. Here, he began a translation of the Tao Te Ching, painted Thelemic slogans on the riverside cliffs, and – he later claimed – experienced what he interpreted as past life memories of being Ge Xuan , Pope Alexander VI, Alessandro Cagliostro, and Eliphas Levi, also painting Thelemic slogans on the riverside cliffs. Back in New York, he moved to Greenwich Village, where he took Leah Hirsig as his lover and next Scarlet Woman. He took up painting as a hobby, exhibiting his work at the Greenwich Village Liberal Club and attracting the attention of the New York Evening World. With the financial assistance of sympathetic Freemasons, Crowley revived The Equinox with the first issue of volume III, known as "The Blue Equinox". He spent mid-1919 on a climbing holiday in Montauk before returning to London
Now destitute and back in London, Crowley came under attack from the tabloid John Bull, which labelled him traitorous "scum" for his work with the German war effort; several friends aware of his intelligence work urged him to sue, but he decided not to. When he was suffering from asthma, a doctor prescribed him heroin , to which he soon became addicted. In January 1920, he moved to Paris, renting a house in Fontainebleau with Leah Hirsig; they were soon joined in a ménage à trois by Ninette Shumway, and also by Leah's newborn daughter Anne "Poupée" Leah. Crowley had ideas of forming a community of Thelemites, which he called the Abbey of Thelema after the Abbaye de Thélème in François Rabelais's satire Gargantua and Pantagruel. After consulting the I Ching, he chose Cefalù (on Sicily, Italy) as a location, and after arriving there, began renting the old Villa Santa Barbara as his
Abbey on 2 April.
SGT PEPPERS LONELY
HEARTS CLUB BAND
New followers continued to arrive at the Abbey to be taught by Crowley. Among them was film star Jane Wolfe, who arrived in July 1920, where she was initiated into the A∴A∴ and became Crowley's secretary. Another was Cecil Frederick Russell, who often argued with Crowley, disliking the same sex sexual magic that he was required to perform, and left after a year. More conducive was the Australian Thelemite Frank Bennett, who also spent
several months at the Abbey. In February 1922, Crowley returned to Paris for a retreat in an unsuccessful attempt to kick his heroin addiction. He then went to London in search of money, where he published articles in The English Review criticising the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920 and wrote a novel, Diary of a Drug Fiend, completed in July. On publication, it received mixed reviews; he was lambasted by the Sunday Express, which called for its burning and used its influence to prevent further reprints.
Subsequently, a young Thelemite named Raoul Loveday moved to the Abbey with his wife Betty May; while Loveday was devoted to Crowley, May detested him and life at the commune. She later claimed that Loveday was made to "drink the blood of a sacrificed cat", and that they were required to cut themselves with razors every time they used the pronoun "I".
Raoul drank from a local polluted stream, soon developing a liver infection resulting in his death in February 1923. Returning to London, May told her story to the press. John Bull proclaimed Crowley "the wickedest man in the world" and "a man we'd like to hang", and although Crowley deemed many of their accusations against him to be slanderous, he was unable to afford the legal
fees to sue them. As a result, John Bull continued its attack, with its stories being repeated in newspapers throughout Europe and in North America. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini learned of Crowley's activities and in April 1923 he was given a deportation notice forcing him to leave Italy; without him, the Abbey closed.
According to Crowley, Reuss had named him head of the O.T.O. upon his death, but this was challenged by a leader of the German O.T.O., Heinrich Tränker. Tränker called the Hohenleuben Conference in Thuringia, Germany, which Crowley attended. There, prominent members like Karl Germer and Martha Küntzel championed Crowley's leadership, but other key figures like Albin Grau, Oskar Hopfer, and Henri Birven backed Tränker by opposing it, resulting in a split in the O.T.O. Moving to Paris, where he broke with Olsen in 1926, Crowley went through a large number of lovers over the following years, with whom he experimented in sex magic .
Throughout, he was dogged by poor health, largely caused by his heroin and cocaine addictions. In 1928, Crowley was introduced
to young Englishman Israel Regardie, who embraced Thelema and became Crowley's secretary for the next three years. That year, Crowley also met Gerald Yorke, who began organising Crowley's finances but never became a Thelemite. He also befriended
Thomas Driberg; Driberg did not accept Thelema either. It was here that Crowley also published one of his most significant works,
Magick in Theory and Practice, which received little attention at the time.
In December 1929 Crowley met the Nicaraguan Maria Teresa Sanchez. Crowley was deported from France by the authorities, who disliked his reputation and feared that he was a German agent. So that she could join him in Britain, Crowley married Sanchez in August 1929. Now based in London, Mandrake Press agreed to publish his autobiography in a limited edition six-volume set, also publishing his novel Moonchild and book of short stories The Stratagem. Mandrake went into liquidation in November 1930, before the entirety of Crowley's Confessions could be published. Mandrake's owner P.R. Stephenson meanwhile wrote The Legend of Aleister Crowley, an analysis of the media coverage surrounding him.
In April 1930, Crowley moved to Berlin, where he took Hanni Jaegar as his magical partner; the relationship was troubled. In September he went to Lisbon in Portugal to meet the poet Fernando Pessoa. There, he decided to fake his own death, doing so with Pessoa's help at the Boca do Inferno rock formation. He then returned to Berlin, where he reappeared three weeks later at the opening of his art exhibition at the Gallery Neumann-Nierendorf. Crowley's paintings fitted with the fashion for German Expressionism; few of them sold, but the press reports were largely favourable. In August 1931, he took Bertha Busch as his new lover; they had a violent relationship, and often physically assaulted one another. He continued to have affairs with both men and women while in the city, and met with famous people like Aldous Huxley and Alfred Adler. After befriending him, in January 1932 he took the communist Gerald Hamilton as a lodger, through whom he was introduced to many figures within the Berlin far left; it is possible that he was operating as a spy for British intelligence at this time, monitoring the communist movement.
Crowley left Busch and returned to London, where he took Pearl Brooksmith as
his new Scarlet Woman. Undergoing further nasal surgery, it was here in 1932
that he was invited to be guest of honour at Foyles' Literary Luncheon, also
being invited by Harry Price to speak at the National Laboratory of Psychical
Research. In need of money, he launched a series of court cases against
people whom he believed had libelled him, some of which proved successful.
He gained much publicity for his lawsuit against Constable and Co for
publishing Nina Hamnett's Laughing Torso (1932) – a book he thought libelled
him – but lost the case. The court case added to Crowley's financial problems,
and in February 1935 he was declared bankrupt. During the hearing, it was
revealed that Crowley had been spending three times his income for several
Crowley developed a platonic friendship with Deidre Patricia O'Doherty; she
offered to bear his child, who was born in May 1937. Named Randall Gair,
Crowley nicknamed him Aleister Atatürk. Crowley continued to socialise with
friends, holding curry parties in which he cooked particularly spicy food for
them. In 1936, he published his first book in six years, The Equinox of the
Gods , which contained a facsimile of The Book of the Law and was considered
to be volume III, number 3, of The Equinox periodical. The work sold well,
resulting in a second print run. In 1937 he gave a series of public lectures on
yoga in Soho. Crowley was now living largely off contributions supplied by the
O.T.O.'s Agape Lodge in California, led by rocket scientist John Whiteside
"Jack" Parsons. Crowley was intrigued by the rise of Nazism in Germany, and
influenced by his friend Martha Küntzel believed that Adolf Hitler might convert
to Thelema; when the Nazis abolished the German O.T.O. and imprisoned
Germer, who fled to the US, Crowley then lambasted Hitler as a black magician.
The Art of Aleister Crowley
In April 1944 Crowley briefly moved to Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire, where
he was visited by the poet Nancy Cunard, before relocating to Hastings in
Sussex, where he took up residence at the Netherwood boarding house. He
took a young man named Kenneth Grant as his secretary, paying him in magical
teaching rather than wages. He was also introduced to John Symonds, whom
he appointed to be his literary executor; Symonds thought little of Crowley, later
publishing negative biographies of him. Corresponding with the illusionist Arnold
Crowther, it was through him that Crowley was introduced to Gerald Gardner ,
the future founder of Gardnerian Wicca. They became friends, with Crowley
authorising Gardner to revive Britain's ailing O.T.O. Another visitor was Eliza
Marian Butler, who interviewed Crowley for her book The Myth of the Magus.
Other friends and family also spent time with him, among them Doherty and
Crowley's son Aleister Atatürk. On 1 December 1947, Crowley died at
Netherwood of chronic bronchitis aggravated by pleurisy and myocardial
degeneration, aged 72. His funeral was held at a Brighton crematorium on 5
December; about a dozen people attended, and Louis Wilkinson read excerpts
from the Gnostic Mass, The Book of the Law, and "Hymn to Pan". The funeral
generated press controversy, and was labelled a Black Mass by the tabloids.
Crowley's ashes were sent to Germer in the US, who buried them in his garden in Hampton, New Jersey.
Crowley's thought was not always cohesive, and was influenced by a variety of sources, ranging from eastern religious movements and practices like Hindu yoga and Buddhism, scientific naturalism, and various currents within Western esoteric-ism, among them ceremonial magic, alchemy, astrology, Rosicrucian-ism, Kabbalah , and the Tarot. Philosopher John Moore opined that Crowley's thought was rooted in Romanticism and the Decadent movement, an assessment shared by historian Alex Owen, who noted that Crowley adhered to the "modus operandi" of the decadent movement throughout his life.
Both during his life and after it, Crowley has been widely described as a Satanist , usually by detractors. Crowley stated he did not consider himself a Satanist, nor did he worship Satan, as he did not accept the Christian world view in which Satan was believed to exist. He was also accused of advocating human sacrifice, largely because of a passage in Book 4 in which he stated that "A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory victim". This was intended as a veiled reference to male masturbation.
Crowley biographer Martin Booth asserted that Crowley was "self-confident, brash, eccentric, egotistic, highly intelligent, arrogant, witty, wealthy, and, when it suited him, cruel". Similarly, Richard Spence noted that Crowley was "capable of immense physical and emotional cruelty". Biographer Lawrence Sutin noted that Crowley exhibited "courage, skill, dauntless energy, and remarkable focus of will" while at the same time showing a "blind arrogance, petty fits of bile, [and] contempt for the abilities of his fellow men". The Thelemite Lon Milo DuQuette noted that Crowley "was by no means perfect" and "often alienated those who loved him dearest."
Crowley has remained an influential figure, both amongst occultists and in popular culture, particularly that of Britain, but also of other parts of the world. In 2002, a BBC poll placed Crowley seventy-third in a list of the 100 Greatest Britons. Richard Cavendish has written of him that "In native talent, penetrating intelligence and determination, Aleister Crowley was the best-equipped magician to emerge since the seventeenth century."
Wouter Hanegraaff asserted that Crowley was an extreme representation of "the dark side of the occult", while philosopher John Moore opined that Crowley stood out as a "Modern Master" when compared with other prominent occult figures like George Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Rudolf Steiner, or Helena Blavatsky, also describing him as a "living embodiment" of Oswald Spengler's "Faustian Man". Biographer Tobias Churton considered Crowley "a pioneer of consciousness research", and Sutin thought that he had made "distinctly original contributions" to the study of yoga in the West.
What is the Mark of the Beast according to Aleister Crowley?
Several Western esoteric traditions other than Thelema were also influenced by Crowley. Gerald Gardner, founder of Gardnerian Wicca , made use of
much of Crowley's published material when composing the Gardnerian ritual liturgy, and the Australian witch Rosaleen Norton was also heavily influenced by Crowley's ideas. L. Ron Hubbard , the American founder of Scientology, was involved in Thelema in the early 1940s (with Jack Parsons), and it has been argued that Crowley's ideas influenced some of Hubbard's work. Two prominent figures in religious Satanism, Anton LaVey and Michael Aquino, were also influenced by Crowley's work. Crowley also had a wider influence in British popular culture. He was included as one of the figures on the cover art of The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts ClubBand (1967) , and his motto of "Do What Thou Wilt" was inscribed on the vinyl of Led Zeppelin's album Led Zeppelin III (1970).
Led Zeppelin co-founder Jimmy Page bought Boleskine in 1971, and part of the band's film The Song Remains the Same was filmed in the grounds. He sold it in 1992. David Bowie made reference to Crowley in the lyrics of his song "Quicksand" (1971), while Ozzy Osbourne and his lyricist Bob Daisley wrote a song titled "Mr Crowley" (1980).
The people who have really made history are the martyrs.