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Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)

Aleister Crowley (Edward Alexander Crowley) was a self-proclaimed drug and sex "fiend," a mostly self-published author of books on the occult and magick, a poet and mountaineer, and a leader of a group called Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) whose tenets are detailed in one of his many writings, The Book of the Law.  The latter contains his version of  the Law of Thelema, which Crowley claims he channeled for a "praeterhuman intelligence" called Aiwass. Thelema is now considered a religion.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law is his motto for OTO. In practice, for Crowley this meant rejecting traditional morality in favor of the life of a drug addict and womanizer. ("I rave; and I rape and I rip and I rend" is a line from one of his poems. Diary of a Drug Fiend is the title of one of his books.) Other OTO folks consider the rule to mean something less sinister.

This "Law of Thelema", as it is called, is not to be interpreted as a license to indulge every passing whim, but rather as the divine mandate to discover one's True Will or true purpose in life, and to accomplish it; leaving others to do the same in their own unique ways.*

Crowley claimed to identify himself with the Great Beast 666 (from the Book of Revelation) and enjoyed the appellation of "wickedest man in the world." Crowley inherited a fortune and worked hard at being strange. He was especially alluring to dysfunctional women (Gardner 1992:198).

Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice is a very popular book among occultists. Given his reputation, it is inevitable that he would appeal to certain rock musicians of the late 20th century. Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin guitarist and occultist, bought Crowley's mansion, Boleskine House, near Foyers, Scotland, and owns a large collection of Crowley memorabilia. And Crowley's face is one of many on the album cover of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

In a poll conducted by the BBC in 2002 to find "the 100 Greatest Britons," Crowley was voted number 73.


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further reading

Crowley, Aleister.The Confessions of Aleister Crowley : An Autohagiography.  Arkana, 1989.

Crowley, Aleister. Book of the Law. Weiser Books; Reissue edition 1987.

Crowley, Aleister. Magick: Liber Aba. Weiser Books; 2nd Rev edition. 1998.

Crowley, Aleister. Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck. U.S. Games Systems; standard edition. 1972.

Gardner, Martin. On the Wild Side (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1992), chapter 29.

King, Francis (2004). Megatherion: The Magical World Of Aleister Crowley. Creation Books.

Lachman, Gary (2003). Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius. The Disinformation Company.

websites

Master of Darkness

Mr. Crowley's Neighborhood

The Ordo Templi Orientis U.S. Grand Lodge

The Golden Dawn FAQ

Aleister Crowley in the Desert - An excerpt from The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern by Alex Owen

Last updated 15-Dec-2013

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