Why is Aleister Crowly considered evil

The Evilest Man in the World: Aleister Crowley and the Horrors of Magic

Part 1: Secret Masters, Scarlet Women and the Golden Dawn - Crowley becomes a magician

Aleister Crowley is the hero of pop culture. He appears on a Beatles record cover (Sergeant Pepper’s), Kenneth Anger introduced him to the Rolling Stones, rock stars pay record prices for his paintings, he haunts numerous horror films and horror novels. One could almost forget that he is more than the evil witcher from the fairy tale. Crowley really lived. But he wasn't really a Satanist.

An author's life is often difficult. You write a book and then nobody wants to buy it. Or you can't find a publisher at all. Some publishers are downright allergic to authors whose manuscripts, in their opinion, are too long, too complicated, not commercial enough. But this expression of displeasure by the publisher Rupert Grayson is extreme:

Alastair [sic] Crowley, the Black Magician, had set his drugged body in motion to pay us a visit; when I looked across the two-foot-wide table that separated us into his yellow, pockmarked yellow face, I was really disgusted. As he left the room, I opened the door and windows to get rid of the aromatic smell of evil that he had left on his brief visit. The manuscript that Crowley brought us was, unsurprisingly, a strange and sinister work; it was, as far as I can remember, the only book I turned down for no other reason than that we immediately disliked the author.

Back then, in the 1930s, Crowley tried to bring its own perfume onto the market. In the course of his life as a magician he had experimented with the most unusual essences and thereby developed an olfactory tolerance that his contemporaries could not muster. So it is quite possible that he smelled very strong when he went to see Grayson. However, the publisher would have been disgusted one way or another, because Crowley was preceded by the reputation of the creep. Whoever saw him felt sick best. Otherwise, it was easy to get the smell of being a Satanist yourself. To this day, surprisingly little has changed.

Fast Food and the Judgment Day: Crowley's Teenage Years

His real name was Edward Alexander Crowley (1875-1947). His mother called him "Alick". His grandfather, a brewery owner, had opened a chain of pubs in the middle of the 19th century, in which ham and cheese sandwiches were offered in addition to beer. He had made a fortune with this early form of fast food restaurant, very popular with London office workers. Nick's father could therefore afford to lead the life of a wealthy gentleman. Crowley's parents belonged to a Christian fundamentalist sect. The Plymouth Brethren believed that the wording of the Bible should be followed (the yardstick was the King James translation), all parishioners were equal at meetings, there was no privileged position of priests, and the Brethren believed in the imminent Judgment Day After which all but them would burn in hell.

Of course, Crowley rebelled against his parents, if not as unconditionally as is often portrayed, because it fits so well into the cliché. Basically, he was entirely his father's son. Like him, he made it his business to advance his fellow men spiritually; only the creed was different. In his writings, the typical cadences of the King James Bible can be found again and again, which strongly influenced him. The Plymouth Brethren particularly appealed to the higher classes. Crowley remained a member of the class he was born into, with its racial and social prejudices. Even when he ran out of money, he could not deny that he came from a wealthy family. He was an eccentric who placed great emphasis on good manners and social etiquette. The stories in which he visits some salons and leaves his excrement on the carpet of the hosts with more or less funny comments are therefore almost certainly made up.

Alick Crowley attended "good schools," which also meant he encountered brutal teachers. Sadism was an integral part of the school system. Another was distrust and constant vigilance towards the students, especially in the sexual area. The two big taboos were homosexuality and masturbation. Victorian medicine was fixated on the male semen. The man's well-being depended on him, the bearer of virility. Ejaculations were considered dangerous to health. Doctors therefore advised as little sex as possible in marriage. Women were not seen as equal beings. The sexologists knew from them that they were hardly interested in sexual intercourse beyond the mere reproductive function (there are etiquette books in which the well-behaved woman is advised not to show pleasure during sex and to pretend that she had fallen asleep).

Extramarital sex was completely forbidden. It was tolerated, however, that the gentlemen from the higher classes obtained satisfaction from prostitutes; At the same time, people complained about the bad character of these lower-class women. Crowley can be seen as a pioneer of free love, also for women. It should be added, however, that he could not really break free of Victorian sexual morality. He opposed her, but he never seems to have had a completely relaxed relationship with sex. For him women are inferior, their most important role is that of mother. His Confessions, for whom he was seeking a publisher when he paid a visit to Grayson, are, for the most part, remarkably honest and direct. But when it comes to the gay side of his bisexuality, he resorts to metaphors. It's not just about fear of prosecution. He was embarrassed about his homosexuality because it was "unmanly". He hides his venereal diseases behind flowery speeches because he is ashamed. He never got rid of the feeling that sex was basically something dirty. And at the center of his sex magic was the seed - just like the Victorians he fought against. “Where Crowley differed in the end,” writes his biographer Lawrence Sutin (Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley), "That was his willingness to consume this 'life energy' generously."

At school, Crowley was allowed to read books that were forbidden at home. He was particularly enthusiastic about Shakespeare and Swinburne. According to the most popular version, he lost his innocence to an actress in Torquay when he was 15. A “mystical” experience leading to “spiritual ecstasy” in Stockholm on New Year's Eve 1896, about which he in the Confessions reported, can be interpreted in such a way that he had sexual intercourse with a man for the first time in Sweden. Because he didn't know anything about magicians and demons. Alick enrolled at Trinity College at Cambridge University and adopted the name "Aleister", a Gaelic variant of Alexander. In doing so, he paid tribute to the rebel poet Percy Shelley and the hero of his work Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude his reference, and he got rid of "Alick," whom he hated mostly because his mother called him that.

Aleister soon left Cambridge. He was not interested in a conventional professional career. But he wanted to be famous. Preferably as a poet. So he started publishing his dramas and poems - in beautiful, bibliophile editions and at his own expense. There was no success. His poems are of varying quality. But the volumes White stains and The Scented Garden belong in every library of gay literature.

Kilts and German girls: Crowley discovers the Golden Dawn

Crowley's path to magic was difficult. First he bought A.E. Waites The Book of Black Magic and Pacts. The book was a disappointment. Crowley was in the style of Huysmans' novel Là-bas promised (about the child murderer Gilles de Rais), in which a black mass is described. Waite couldn't keep up. Was better The cloud over the sanctuary of the mystic Karl von Eckhartshausen. Crowley was particularly fascinated by the parts of the work that dealt with a secret religious order. Eventually he met the chemist George Cecil Jones. Jones was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and ready to introduce it there.

By the late 19th century, magical knowledge was a rather fragmentary affair. It had been taken apart again and again, reassembled, and supplemented in one way or another. There are therefore always points of contact between very different secret societies, which opens up a rich field of activity for conspiracy theorists. The Golden Dawn is an offshoot of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn from Germany. It is just not entirely certain whether the German model even existed.

The story goes something like this: The priest and Freemason A.F.A. Woodford found an encrypted, 60-page manuscript in a second-hand bookshop, which he passed on to the chemist William Wynn Westcott in August 1887. Or so Westcott said. Woodford could no longer be asked because he had died. Westcott deciphered the 60 pages and now had an overview of five magical initiation rituals in his hands, which showed certain similarities with the rituals of the Freemasons, but also permitted female adepts. An explanatory letter from Anna Sprengel, also encrypted, was enclosed with the manuscript. Fräulein Sprengel was a Rosicrucian, lived in Stuttgart or Nuremberg (the letter only gave a poste restante address) and was head of the Order of the Golden Twilight. With her - or rather with her secretary - Westcott began a correspondence that lasted three years. Then Westcott received the news that Miss Sprengel had suddenly died and that the German Order would cease all communication with the English branch with immediate effect. However, the three years had been enough to build an occult secret society that had a special attraction for poets and intellectuals.

One - albeit brief - member was Arthur Make, the one with the story book The Three Impostors (1895) wrote a classic of fantastic literature. William Butler Yeats was there longer. His magical motto, Demon Est Deus Inversus (the devil is the inversion of God), goes back to Gnostic teaching that the devil is the true source of divine wisdom, but which is not seen in an unenlightened world. In short, this quickly results in the accusation of Satanism, which Crowley was often exposed to. It was partly his own fault because he liked to provoke. But he wasn't a devil worshiper. Satanism needs Christianity as a contrast foil, replacing Jesus' rule with that of the Antichrist. Crowley wanted to start a new religion that would replace Christianity instead of turning it around.

Because the Sprengel manuscript remained rather general, the rituals of the Golden Dawn first had to be written. Samuell Liddell Mathers, who came from a humble background, took over. Mathers became an important one role model for Crowley. He claimed to descend in a direct line from the Macgregor clan, which is why he adopted the name "Count Macgregor of Glenstrae". Unlike Westcott, he said of himself that he had magical abilities. According to his account, he had contact with the masters of the Great White Lodge, to whom all occult knowledge goes back. From this he derived a claim to leadership, and that brought unrest to the Golden Dawn.

With Abramelin at Loch Ness

By the time Crowley paid the 10 shillings admission fee, Mathers had long since moved to Paris and founded his own temple there. Westcott had recently retired so as not to jeopardize his position as a civil servant (someone, presumably Mathers, had denounced him to his superiors). But the power struggle between London and Paris continued. Crowley visited Mathers in Paris (May 1899) and sided with him. It also had to do with the fact that the Londoners were not ready to accept him into the second order of the Golden Dawn (they did not like his way of life), but Mathers was. The Londoners, in turn, cited this as evidence of Mathers ’lack of judgment as to why he could not be their guide.

Mathers had found a mysterious manuscript attributed to the legendary Abraham von Worms in a Paris library and translated it into English: The secret magic of Abramelin. This book gave details of a six month ritual. Crowley wanted to do it. In the preparatory phase he appeared as "Count Vladimir Svareff", which he occasionally justified with the requirements of the ritual. He probably just wanted to be a Russian count. He found the ideal location for the ritual on the south bank of Loch Ness: Boleskine House. After he bought the house, he passed himself off as the "Laird of Boleskine and Abertaff", confessed to the Macgregors like Mathers and received guests in the appropriate costume of the Scottish highlands. He could seldom resist an opportunity to masquerade.

The Abramelin ritual is very strict. Whoever begins it must carry it through to the end or face the consequences; only illness is a legitimate reason to quit. Crowley began it in December 1899, but then traveled to Paris in January 1900 to finally be inducted into the Second Order by Mathers. Richard Cammell (the father of Donald Cammell, the director of performance with Mick Jagger) was friends with Crowley for a while and wrote a nice book about him (Aleister Crowley. The Man: The Mage: The Poet). He is convinced of the power of the ritual. For him, Crowley was under a curse after breaking Abramelin's rules. Gradually he lost his sense of good and bad, his love, his fortune, his honor, his magical abilities, his talent as a poet. At least that's what Cammell says.

Crowley's initiation into the second order was at the same time another level of escalation in the power struggle within the Golden Dawn. To strengthen his authority, Mathers sent a letter to London in which he declared the whole correspondence between Westcott and Fraulein Sprengel to be brazen forgery. According to Mathers, the Golden Dawn owes all of his occult knowledge to him alone, only he is in contact with the Secret Masters. In 1890, in agreement with Westcott, he had announced the death of Miss Sprengel. Now, in February 1900, he announced that Anna Sprengel was alive. She calls herself Madame Horos, lives in Paris and helps him with his magical operations. Mathers soon regretted this part of the letter. Madame Horos, who justified her obesity by taking in the spirit of the already rather voluminous Madame Blavatsky (the founder of theosophy), was an impostor. In December 1901, she was sentenced in a sensational trial for aiding and abetting in a rape committed by her husband. The press did not miss the opportunity to ridicule the Golden Dawn.

Zoff in the twilight

The opposition to Mathers was led by William Butler Yeats, who believed neither of Crowley's verses nor of its character. Crowley, in turn, was jealous of Yeats, who was exactly what he himself wanted to be: a celebrated poet. Appointed by Mathers as his London representative, Crowley invaded the London rooms of the Golden Dawn on April 17, 1900 and exchanged the locks. Mathers had since renounced Madame Horos, but feared her magical attacks. To ward off this, Crowley wore an Osiris mask, the tartan of the Macgregors and a dagger when he wanted to go to the temple with new keys on April 19. He was met by Yeats, a police officer, and the homeowner who stupidly belonged to a trade interest group. Crowley was blacklisted there for not paying bills. He went home again without much fuss. With that the power struggle was decided in a very secular way.

Crowley now had doubts about the magical powers of his mentor Mathers. These accompanied him when he embarked for New York in June 1900. The journey took him around the world. His friend Oscar Eckenstein introduced him to the power of yoga. Since both were enthusiastic mountaineers, they decided to go on a Himalayan expedition. They were the first to try to climb K2. The company failed, but is now considered a major achievement in the history of mountaineering. The London section of the Alpine Club, which had rejected Crowley's application for membership, refused to recognize the expedition. Crowley never forgave that. From then on, the Alpine Club was one of his favorite enemies.

The Magician: Crowley as a character in a novel

Crowley arrived in Paris in November 1902 and, according to his own statements, attracted a lot of attention in artistic circles. However, he seems to have received little attention, which was also due to the fact that he spoke very poor French (although he always claimed the opposite). Café Le Chat Blanc was an exception. British and American writers gathered there. Crowley wasn't popular, but he was listened to when he talked about magic and his adventures in the Himalayas. One of the guests was William Somerset Maugham. He published the novel six years later The Magician, in which much of occult works is copied (especially by Mathers ’ The Kabbalah Unveiled) and some of the legends that were now circulating through Crowley. In the novel, Crowley appears as the sinister Oliver Haddo, who kidnaps the beautiful heroine to perform magical rituals on her body. Maugham assigned Crowley the role he never got rid of and which shaped our image of him much more than the biographical person: that of the villain and satanist in horror novels and horror films.

Crowley himself has always emphasized that a sharp distinction must be made between high (“white”) and low (“black”) magic. The high magic to which he professed is aimed at gaining such a deep understanding of his own self and his surroundings that it is possible to transcend all human limitations and ultimately to become a divine or at least a superhuman being himself . The lower magic serves the immediate worldly advantage: winning a loved one, revenge on an enemy, increasing money. The only problem is that in practice it is difficult to separate one from the other. Arthur Make reports in his autobiography that Yeats feared a counterstrike from his adversary after winning the power struggle, in whose closet supposedly naked women were hanging on hooks driven through their flesh and who is said to have beaten fetishes with needles to inflict pain on his enemies. Crowley will have played his part in keeping Yeats alive with such fears.

Contrary to his later image as a spoiler of innocent girls, Crowley liked experienced women. Rose Kelly, his first wife, had already been married and had several affairs when he ran away with her. On the occasion of his wedding, Crowley granted himself a new title of nobility. He appeared as the Persian prince "Chioi Khan", which, as he explained, can be translated with "the beast" (The Beast). It was one of his typical defiant reactions. In the Confessions At this point he tells of his mother who believed he was the apocalyptic beast with the number 666 from the Book of Revelation. He made it up or not. Be that as it may: the volume of poetry The Sword of Songs he gave the subtitle "The Book of the Beast"; He had the number 666 stamped several times on the cover of the book. From then on, “The Beast” was his battle name or, for his followers, his nickname (Aleister were only allowed to call him a very few).

Do what you want: Crowley becomes a religious founder

The Crowley couple went on their honeymoon to the Great Pyramid of Cheops. In Egypt, according to Crowley, he was contacted by a supernatural intelligence named Aiwass or Aiwaz. Aiwass spoke very pure English. In three magical sessions on April 8, 9 and 10, 1904, Aiwass Crowley dictated the scriptures of a new religion, divided into three chapters, directly into the typewriter. The dictation is in The Book of the Law to read. The most famous lines from it: “Do what you want. This is the whole law. Love is the law; Love under the will. ”The exegetes agree that these sentences are almost always misunderstood. There is disagreement about how to properly understand them. Crowley's form of tantric sexual magic has to do with the Freudian insight that the unconscious is our true self, suppressed by social norms, and that we have to listen to its voice. Only in this way can we learn to follow the will of the unconscious. “Will” is not synonymous with “desire”. It is more about putting people in a position to bring about change in accordance with their free will, rather than being a helpless victim of circumstances.

Even decades later, Crowley tried changing interpretations of what had happened to him in Egypt. Aiwass, he believed, was probably his guardian angel and also the being that appears at the end of the Abramelin ritual. So Crowley announced that he was the true contact person for the Secret Masters and therefore had to lead the Golden Dawn. You can declare the whole thing to be an intrigue against Mathers, but that would probably do Crowley injustice. A magician, says Colin Wilson in The occult, explore the outskirts of human consciousness. Whether one believes in an extraterrestrial messenger or in a projection of Crowley's unconscious, he seems to have penetrated into such outskirts and to have experienced something in the process that convinced him that he actually had the talents to be a great magician. That determined his further life.

Rose could have been the woman of this life. With her as a medium, Crowley met Aiwass, for her he wrote some of his best poems, she was his first Scarlet Woman. The Scarlet Woman was essential to Crowley's magic. She is known from the Revelation of John (in Crowley's case, of course, again in the King James Version), where she is also referred to as the Great Whore of Babylon. Babylon is the enemy of Christianity. Crowley's Scarlet Woman ties in with the holy whores who played an important role as temple servants in pre-Christian mystery cults, so it is to be seen in a religious context and should not be confused with secular prostitutes.

Sex Magick: Ejaculation as a Sacred Act

With Crowley, sex becomes a sacrament. The man's semen and woman's menstrual bleeding have a function similar to that of the wine and the host in Christian mass. Anyone who finds something like that blasphemous or just disgusting will have little joy with Crowley (he himself would have vehemently rejected such a comparison because he wanted to establish something fundamentally different from Christianity). If you see it as just a pretext for sexual debauchery, Crowley is a horny lecher. As part of religious rituals, sex was impersonal to him. Friends of the sex act wrapped in romantic love will find it horrible and cruel. One can object that Crowley's sexual magic has a spiritual orientation and is composed of elements known from other religions and cults, from the Gnostics of early Christianity to Indian Tantrism. But you don't need a lot of imagination to imagine how Crowley mutated into a sex monster in a Christian society based on half-truths and rumors. According to his diaries, by the way, he had more sexual partners than the common man, but was otherwise a very average lover.

Not everything about Crowley is made up. He fathered children who died early or whom he did not care for. Dorothy Olsen, one of the Scarlet Women, drank herself to death. Maria de Miramar, the second Mrs. Crowley, spent the last years of her life in an asylum. Hanni Jäger, whom he called "The Monster", committed suicide. It may be that he was drawn to women who were traveling in psychological border areas because it was easier with them to get to another level of consciousness. The fact remains that he left a trail of madness and death in his life path.

Rose, his first wife, was an alcoholic. Crowley seems to have bothered most about the fact that when she was drunk she broke etiquette and he felt embarrassed in front of his friends - he was a very bourgeois provocateur after all. Finally he got divorced. Crowley, it has to be said, was an opportunist who took advantage of other people and dropped them when they became a nuisance to him. (Rose was admitted to an institution in a delirious state, later released as cured, and then led a normal civil life.)

Mathers was unwilling to give up his post at the Golden Dawn in Paris because Aiwass had spoken to his former student. Crowley had nothing to expect from Yeats and his London colleagues anyway. He retired to his home in Scotland and declared "magical war" on Mathers. In the meantime, however, he devoted himself to the problem of how his works could be better distributed to the people. Several of his books of poetry were published by Kegan Paul in London. This publisher had a reputation for publishing everything without any problems, as long as the author took over the costs. Of Jepthah and Other Mysteries Crowley mailed 84 review copies; Exactly ten pieces were sold. Nobody bought other volumes at all (today the books are in demand for collectors' items, at auctions they fetch fancy prices).

Crowley felt that he couldn't make it worse himself and founded his own publishing house, the Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth. This was intended as an affront to the Anglican Church, whose publishing activities were brought together under the umbrella of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Sales did not benefit from what did not foresee much good for the collected works that are now in preparation. The magical war was initially limited to a few dead dogs in Boleskine House, which Crowley believed were due to Mathers ’, and to appropriate measures to ward off further attacks. Crowley's claim that Mathers forced his wife Mina to prostitute herself and appear on a nude show at Monmartre should not be included. That was simply character assassination; The Mathers were extremely sensitive about sexual matters. Crowley could be a very disagreeable person.

Death in the Himalayas

In 1905 the Swiss J. Jacot Guillarmod came to visit Boleskine. Guillarmod had been involved in the K2 expedition and suggested that they try their hand at the five peaks of Kanchenjunga. This second Himalayan expedition was a disaster. Crowley was, as you would say in today's interview, not a team player and completely unsuitable to run such a company. He thought little or nothing of the other participants in the expedition. To the local porters, he turned out to be a sadist with a colonialist mentality. One of the porters fell and died; others deserted. Guillarmod thought the route chosen by Crowley was wrong, explained himself with the help of his compatriots Alexis Pache and A.C.R. de Righi as the new expedition leader and decided to turn back at an altitude of about 6,500 meters. During the descent, one of the girders slipped and tore two other girders and pache down with it. Presumably, the four men would have survived had it not been for an avalanche that buried them under itself. (The names of the three porters are not mentioned in either Crowley's or Guillarmod's report. That was the case with mountaineering in the Himalayas.)

Crowley had stayed in the camp and spent the night in his tent while Guillarmod and de Righi tried to rescue the men. He did not respond to cries for help. He later explained that he could no longer have helped and that he lacked tolerance for this type of self-inflicted accident. Crowley parted ways with Guillarmod and the others, made the way back faster than they did, and used the time he had saved to send five open letters justifying his behavior to newspapers in India and London. The letters are full of contempt for his comrades and, in their arrogance, quite unbearable. Of course, this did not prevent Guillarmod and de Righi from also publishing their version of the events. They declared Crowley a coward and a character pig. From then on he was done for in mountaineering circles. The incident would haunt him for the rest of his life.

In order to finally get the recognition he deserved, Crowley offered £ 100 for the best essay on his poetic work. The winner of the competition and the only participant was Captain J.F.C. Ink pen. Fuller actually thought Crowley was a genius; he never got the money, but the two became friends anyway. Because the takeover of the Golden Dawn made no progress, Crowley founded the Order of the Silver Star (Astrum Argenteum, or A.A. for short) in 1907. This new order, which he led, initially had only two other members: Jones, who introduced it at the Golden Dawn, and Fuller. You can smile or turn your nose at it. Fuller later became a member of the British Fascist Party and an admirer of Adolf Hitler; he was one of only two Brits who were invited to the “Führer ”'s 50th birthday. But he was also a brilliant mind. He is considered one of the most brilliant military theorists of all time. Fuller wrote elegant prose, was artistically gifted, and an excellent strategist. For Crowley, he quickly became one of the most important allies he ever had.

So far, the public had hardly noticed Crowley's efforts to become a celebrity. That should change now. If not famous, it would soon be notorious.

(Hans Schmid)

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