Hello dear "theosophical friends"!
I must say that I'm researching about various subjects related with Blavatsky, Theosophy, Secret Societies, etc... But the name of Aleister Crowley continues to appear everywhere, and in every place it is mentioned, there are mixed thoughts like saying he was a great man and enlightened being, to saying he was the worst black magician of all times.
I've heard that he was folowing the steps of Societies like Golden Dawn and after that got into black magic.
What do you think about Crowley? Was he indeed someone to mantain distance or just someone that was unbalanced at times? And what are your thoughts about his religion Thelema?
Thank you for your attention!
Aleister Crowley(1875 - 1947) was inarguable the most influencial Western Occultist of the 20th Century. In so far as inspiring people to seriously look into and study Hermeticism, Magick and Western esotericism in general. I think in large part because of his Spiritual, Magickal, and Sexual adventurism.
He had a very keen intellect, rebeled against a strick fundamentalist Christian upbringing, and inherited a fairly large fortune and used it, and dissipated it, in traveling and exploring all sorts of groups, philosophies, and locales. The image of him in his prime years of a "spiritual Rebel" and "occult swashbuckler" of sorts has moved many to follow suit.
The label "most wicked man in the world" came from a headline in a prominent British scandal magazine of his time, JOHN BULL. It was based on what has now been verified to be totally false and exaggerated claims of wrong doing. Crowley, being a master "self publicist," reveled in this gossip and even encouraged it at times.
Joe's right, he was imbalanced and his drug addictions and extreme sexual promiscuity at times is not to emulated. But, who isn't imbalanced in some areas in their lives. A good case could be made against Blavatsky herself, thought imbalanced in a different way.
As for his being "enlightened," there are strong indications he certainly had a number of classical "enlightenment" experiences, but didn't abide or stay in these spaces as his normal baseline consciousness. There's so much about him, he had so many aspects, he was certainly a "mixed bag." Here's a web page with some interesting essays about him that might interest you:
From what I've heard through a reliable source, you might be best off steering clear of any official O.T.O. or Crowley or Thelema group. They tend to be a philosophy without much heart or compassion and there is a dogmatic approach to Crowley as the final authority.
If I may suggest, you should look into the Occultist Dion Fortune, an contemporary of Crowley. She is much more balanced and her writings are very approachable and readable. She was a member of the Theosophical Society and a descendant organization of the Golden Dawn, Alpha et Omega. Two of her novels were very influential to Doreen Valiente, an early associate co-founder with Gerald Gardner of the Wicca movement, of which you asked about earlier.
Thanks, Mark, for bringing up these points about Aleister Crowley. He was a more than competent chess player, but at a Masters level is his evaluation. His autobiography, "Confessions of Aleister Crowley," is more a hagiography. His level of braggadocio reaches epic proportions at points, but I found it quite amusing and overall enjoyable and informative.
Yes, he was an accomplished mountain climber, and this physical conditioning in his younger years held him in good stead for the rigors of his excessive hedonism later on. His mentor in mountaineering was Oscar Ekenstein, who also had a mystical system of his own, which Crowley learned from. Ekenstein recommend that Crowley study Raja Yoga for better mind control. He later did study Raja Yoga and pranayama in Southeast Asia and became adept at both. This was between the years 1900 - 1903.
You bring up good points about Ceremonial Magick. It is a misunderstood path within the Hermetic tradition. Not all Hermeticists are involved in it. I'm not involved in it, but know there are more groups doing it than the present Golden Dawn organizations.
As for the "Magickal War" between the Occult Britaish/Allies and the Occult Nazi's, you're right. It's something you won't find in standard history books. It was kept top secret for a long time. I've only run across references to it in articles here and there. The British Secret MI5 was involved in certain ways. Crowley seemed to be called upon only in an advisory capacity. Dennis Wheatly, the British Occult writer of fiction and non-fiction and good friend of Crowley, was one of the premier members. Ian Fleming, the James Bond author, was also on of it's supervisors.
What little I've gleamed, it reads almost like a Occult/Mystery/Thriller story. An interesting antedote emerges that an agent for MI5, Maxwell Knight, Flemings real life model for James Bond later on, became a student of Magick under Crowley, along with mutual friend, Dennis Wheatley. It's said Fleming used Crowley's Occult knowledge to advantage in MI5's secret war.
A side note: There was a group of British Ceremonial Magicians fighting the Nazi Magicians on the Astral. How much MI5 was involved, I'm not sure. Among the British Magicians was Dion Fortune. Evidently, due to the exhaustive nature of the battle, it wore her completely down, even though she had maintained good health throughout her life. She died an early death at age 54 shortly after WWII ended.
If anyone has any knowledge of books and articles about all this, please come forward and list them.
Thanks, John, for the info on the book about Maxwell Knight. Having not read the book I can't comment too much about what portions of the book should be taken with "grain of salt." People adhering to the materialist paradigm would, of course, reject any presentations of the what is labeled the "astral." I, personally, do not reject such. But, as I said, not being familiar with the book, won't go further.
It was well known by MI5 in WWII that Rudolf Hess was intensely interested in aspects of the Occult, particularly Astrology. According to Peter Lavenda, who's researched this, that when Hess was captured by the British after crash landing his plane in Britain, Ian Fleming wanted Crowley, because of his extensive knowledge of the Occult, to debrief Hess and find out how much Occult knowledge he really had, among other things. This was nixed by Fleming's superiors.
Yes, there was some trickery to Hess involving his almost maniacal devotion to Astrology, and certainly Crowley served in a background advisory role. It's a little too complex to describe here.
I'm sure that most folks associated with either OTO or A:A would take great exception to thelema being called a religion; and I think you'd find that many would defend/rationalize Crowley's "instability" or "excess" as somehow integral to, or at least consistent with, the practice of thelema.
There is much for theosophists in Crowley's work; and I for one would not advocate keeping a distance from his writings.--Ish
Let me make it clear, I'm not a "Crowleyite," nor follower of his. I'm only pointing out some of the positive areas in his life and shedding some light on the misconceptions about him
Ish, you're right, the O.T.O and A:A do not consider themselves "religions," in the classical sense. I don't think Mark meant anything derogatory in his casual inclusion. The O.T.O. is incorporated under California law as a non-profit religious organization, but this is a legal necessity. The A:A, I don't know how they're incorporated, if at all.
As for his "instability" and "excesses" being vital to the practice of Thelema is a subject worthy of another forum. I'm sure there are those that agree with that, and others that say "separate the personality from the teachings." I personally think that emulating any Teacher's character flaws will not get you to their level of understanding and awareness. Who knows, there may be exceptions.
I checked the O.T.O. officlal website and noticed that a prospective new member must only be of "good report" and recommeded by two current members. They offer no definition of "good report" now, but I remember about two or so years ago when I researched the site, they included qualifications like "sober minded" and "drug free," free of any abnormal sexual obsessions, and so forth. Crowley himself wouldn't have passed muster with those requirements. Perhaps a low recruitment rate prompted them to change matters a little.
The A:A site seems pretty wide open and "do as you will" in order to join. No official meetings or join ceremonies, just Lone Operators communicating with each others.
I agree that anyone interested in Western Esotericism and Hermeticism can learn from studying Crowley,or perhaps best, books about him and his teachings. His writings do tend to be filled with in-jokes, obscure symbolism and difficult to interpret allusions, though some of it is straight forward and accessible.
I first came across Dion Fortune's writings when I was 16 and read all her novels, then progressed onto her other books of which the Cosmic Doctrine and Mystical Qabalah are classics. She started her own society called the Inner Light based in London and she also had a base in Glastonbury at the foot of the Tor. She worked tirelessly during WW2 on the inner levels to support the war effort and her papers were released in a book called The Magical Battle of Britain. Thoth publications seem to publish all her books now.
I hold her in great esteem, as she was the first influence on my spiritual path.I experienced an awakening at a young age and her work enabled me to progress safely at a time when there was limited information publicly available on the Western Mystery Tradition.
Crowley's work on the other hand,although powerful in content,is not as kind to beginners as it could lead them up blind alleys and confuse them. Maybe it was his way of protecting the knowledge from beginners or curiosity seekers. I can say however that the Thoth tarot is a very powerful meditation tool and can produce revelation when used properly.I must add that for me, these tarot cards unlock the secrets of the paths on the Tree of life, as well as the Hebrew letters, and I rarely use them for readings for others
I think the dangers on any path are due to not keeping a balanced approach. Self awareness is essential, daily making sure that motives are free of ego ( kama manas) and intentions are in line with the Higher Will. Crowley's motto 'Do what thou Will' refers to the Causal will, not the little will of every day consciousness.I think he was ahead of his time and largely misunderstood, however the kundalini energy can destroy a person if the preliminary work is not thorough,and this may have been his problem.
That's good information, Sarah, and I agree with you about Dion Fortune. I feel she's not fully appreciated in modern times by the Hermetic community in general. Her organization, "The Society Of The Inner Light" is still going, headquartered in London, England. Here's the link: http://www.innerlight.org.uk/ In order to be an official member a person muct not take the correspondance course, but be able to attend one or two meetings once or twice a year at their London Headquarters. They keep a low key presence in the Hermetic world. And, thanks for the mention of the book on the Magical War of WWII, I was unaware such existed.
Yes, Crowley is heavy and confusing going in much of his writings. He had a "wicked" sense of humor and loved puzzling word play. Also, having a quick wit, keen intellect and extensive knowledge of the classics he loved to show that off with obscure references. And as I said, his braggadocio reached record heights in his autobiography. But, the fact remains, he was quite accomplished in many fields. It's better to start with books about his teachings and him to start with.
One of the main criticisms of him now is that he never really matured into a balanced person and had difficulty with kindness and compassion.
In his Thoth Tarot Deck Crowley does seem to have surpassed himself, though. From what I know, many Tarot people who don't care for Crowley in general think highly of his deck.
There's a book out concerning the relationship between Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune. It can be bought at Amazon and is called: "Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune: The Logos of the Aeon the Shaki of the Age."http://www.amazon.com/Aleister-Crowley-Dion-Fortune-Shakti/dp/07387...
I actually hold much respect for the man, for he at least walked his walk, and did the talk. So many of
us probably couldnt say the same, he pushed the envelope, and tried what some of us would dare not do.
For me anyone who lives there life fully, and tests those outer bounds should be at least respected for such.
He may have been a very Wicked Man, but he was also great.
Thanks Devilwoman xoox