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Aleister Crowley, c. 1912
Edward Alexander Crowley
12 October 1875
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
1 December 1947 (aged 72)
Occultist, poet, novelist,
Edith Kelly (m.1903–09)
Teresa Sanchez (m.1929–)
Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate
Sappho Jezebel Lilith Crowley (1904–06)
Zaza Crowley (1907–90)
Panthea Crowley (1920–2014)
Leah Crowley (1920)
Randall Gair Doherty
Edward Crowley and Emily Bertha Crowley (née Bishop)
born Edward Alexander Crowley;
12 October 1875 – 1 December 1947) was an English
He founded the religion and philosophy of Thelema,
identifying himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity
into the Æon
of Horus in the early 20th century.
Born to a wealthy Plymouth
Brethren family in Royal
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire,
Crowley rejected this fundamentalist
Christian faith to pursue an interest in Western
esotericism. He was educated at the University
of Cambridge, where he focused his attentions on mountaineering
and poetry, resulting in several publications. Some biographers
allege that here he was recruited into a British
intelligence agency, further suggesting that he remained a spy
throughout his life. In 1898 he joined the esoteric Hermetic
Order of the Golden Dawn, where he was trained in ceremonial
magic by Samuel
Liddell MacGregor Mathers and Allan
Bennett. Moving to Boleskine
House by Loch
Ness in Scotland, he went mountaineering in Mexico with Oscar
Eckenstein, before studying Hindu
practices in India. He married Rose
Edith Kelly and in 1904 they honeymooned in Cairo,
Egypt, where Crowley claimed to have been contacted by a
supernatural entity named Aiwass,
who provided him with The
Book of the Law, a sacred text that
served as the basis for Thelema. Announcing the start of the Æon
of Horus, The Book
declared that its followers should adhere to the code of "Do
what thou wilt" and seek to align themselves with their True
Will through the practice of magick.
unsuccessful attempt to climb Kanchenjunga and a visit to India
and China, Crowley returned to Britain, where he attracted attention
as a prolific author of poetry, novels, and occult literature. In
1907, he and George
Cecil Jones co-founded a Thelemite order, the A∴A∴,
through which they propagated the religion. After spending time in
Algeria, in 1912 he was initiated into another esoteric order, the
Templi Orientis (OTO), rising to become the leader of its
British branch, which he reformulated in accordance with his
Thelemite beliefs. Through the OTO, Thelemite groups were
established in Britain, Australia, and North America. Crowley spent
World War in the United States, where he took up painting and
campaigned for the German war effort against Britain, later
revealing that he had infiltrated the pro-German movement to assist
the British intelligence services. In 1920 he established the Abbey
of Thelema, a religious commune in Cefalù,
Sicily where he lived with various followers. His libertine
lifestyle led to denunciations in the British press, and the Italian
government evicted him in 1923. He divided the following two decades
between France, Germany, and England, and continued to promote
Thelema until his death.
Crowley gained widespread notoriety during his
lifetime, being a recreational
drug experimenter, bisexual
and an individualist
critic. As a result, he was denounced in the popular press as
"the wickedest man in the world" and erroneously labelled
Crowley has remained a highly influential figure over Western
esotericism and the counter-culture, and continues to be considered
a prophet in Thelema. In 2002, a BBC
poll ranked him as the seventy-third greatest
Briton of all time.
Crowley was born as Edward Alexander Crowley at 30 Clarendon Square
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
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
The couple had been married at London's Kensington Registry Office in
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,
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
In March 1887, when Crowley 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
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
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, and in 1894 climbed Beachy
Head before visiting the Alps
and joining the Scottish
Mountaineering Club. The following year he returned to the
climbing the Eiger,
Cambridge University: 1895–98
Having adopted the name of Aleister over Edward, in October 1895
Crowley began a three-year course at Trinity
College, Cambridge, where he was entered for the Moral
studying philosophy. With approval from his personal tutor, he
changed to English literature, which was not then part of the
Crowley spent much of his time at university engaged in his pastimes,
becoming president of the chess club and practising the game for two
hours a day; he briefly considered a professional career as a chess
Crowley also embraced his love of literature and poetry, particularly
the works of Richard
Francis Burton and Percy
Many of his own poems appeared in student publications such as The
Granta, Cambridge Magazine, and Cantab.
He continued his mountaineering, going on holiday to the Alps to
climb every year from 1894 to 1898, often with his friend Oscar
Eckenstein, and in 1897 he made the first ascent of the Mönch
without a guide. These feats led to his recognition in the Alpine
For many years I had loathed being called Alick,
partly because of the unpleasant sound and sight of the word, partly
because it was the name by which my mother called me. Edward did not
seem to suit me and the diminutives Ted or Ned were even less
appropriate. Alexander was too long and Sandy suggested tow hair and
freckles. I had read in some book or other that the most favourable
name for becoming famous was one consisting of a dactyl
followed by a spondee,
as at the end of a hexameter:
like Jeremy Taylor. Aleister Crowley fulfilled these
conditions and Aleister is the Gaelic
form of Alexander. To adopt it would satisfy my romantic ideals.
Aleister Crowley, on his name change.
Crowley later claimed to have had his first significant
experience while on holiday in Stockholm in December 1896.
Several biographers, including Lawrence
Kaczynski, and Tobias
Churton, believed that this was the result of Crowley's first
same-sex sexual experience, which enabled him to recognise his
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
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 to come.
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
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
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
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.
The Golden Dawn: 1898–99
Crowley in Golden
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
Back in London, Baker introduced Crowley to George
Cecil Jones, a 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 at the
Isis-Urania Temple in London's Mark Masons Hall, where Crowley
accepted his motto and magical name of "Frater Perdurabo",
a Latin term meaning "Brother 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
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 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 developed feuds
with members like W.B.
When the Golden Dawn's London lodge refused to initiate Crowley into
the Second Order, he visited Mathers in Paris, who personally
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 Rosenkreutz, 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.
Mexico, India, Paris, and marriage: 1900–03
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
invocations. He later claimed to have been initiated into Freemasonry
while in the city, and spending time writing, he wrote a play based
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,
the latter of which they had to abandon owing to a volcanic
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).
Crowley during the K2 Expedition
Briefly stopping at Japan and Hong Kong, Crowley reached Ceylon,
where he met with Allan Bennett, who was there studying Shaivism.
The pair spent some time in Kandy
before Bennett decided to become a Buddhist monk in the Theravada
tradition, travelling to Burma to do so.
Crowley decided to tour India, devoting himself to the Hindu practice
of raja yoga,
from which he claimed to have achieved the spiritual state of dhyana.
He spent much of this time studying at the Meenakshi
Amman Temple in Madura,
and also wrote poetry which was published as The Sword of Song
(1904). He contracted malaria,
and had to recuperate from the disease in Calcutta and Rangoon.
In 1902, he was joined in India by Eckenstein and several other
mountaineers: Guy Knowles, H. Pfannl, V. Wesseley, and Jules
Jacot-Guillarmod. Together the Eckenstein-Crowley expedition
attempted K2, which
had never been climbed. On the journey, Crowley was afflicted with
malaria, and snow
blindness, and other expedition members were also struck with
illness. They reached an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,100 m)
before turning back.
Arriving in Paris in November 1902, he associated largely with the
Festus 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
Returning to Boleskine in April 1903, in August Crowley wed Gerald's
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
Egypt and The Book of the Law: 1904
Had! The manifestation of Nuit.
unveiling of the company of heaven.
Every man and woman is a
Every number is infinite; there is no difference.
me, o warrior lord of Thebes, in my unveiling before the Children of
The opening lines of The
Book of the Law.
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, also studying Islamic
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
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 AL vel
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 "True
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.
Kangchenjunga and China: 1905–06
Returning to Boleskine, Crowley came to believe that Mathers had
begun using magic against him, and the relationship between the two
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
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.
as seen from Darjeeling
Crowley decided to climb Kangchenjunga
in the Himalayas of Nepal, widely recognised as the world's most
treacherous mountain. Assembling a team consisting of
Jacot-Guillarmod, Charles Adolphe Reymond, Alexis Pache, and Alcesti
C. Rigo de Righi, the
expedition was marred by much argument between Crowley and the
others, who felt that he was reckless. They eventually mutinied
against Crowley's control, with the other climbers heading back down
the mountain as nightfall approached despite Crowley's warnings that
it was too dangerous. Subsequently, Pache and several porters were
killed in an accident, something for which Crowley was widely blamed
by the mountaineering community.
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 was part of Crowley's job as an
intelligence agent, in order to report on the region's opium
Crowley smoked opium throughout the journey, which took the family
through to Yungchang,
then Hanoi. On the
way he spent much time on spiritual and magical work, reciting
invocations from the Goetia on a daily basis.
While Rose and Lilith returned to Europe, Crowley headed to
Shanghai to meet old friend Elaine Simpson, who was fascinated by The
Book of the Law; together they performed rituals in an attempt to
contact Aiwass. Crowley then sailed to Japan and Canada, before
continuing to New York City, where he unsuccessfully solicited
support for a second expedition up Kangchenjunga.
Upon arrival in Britain, Crowley learned that his daughter Lilith had
died of typhoid
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"
Stepp and author Ada
while Rose gave birth to Crowley's second daughter, Lola Zaza, in
The A∴A∴ and the Holy Books of
With his old mentor George Cecil Jones, Crowley continued
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
Making heavy use of hashish
during these rituals, he wrote an influential essay on "The
Psychology of Hashish" (1909).
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
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
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
Crowley's inheritance was running out.
Trying to earn money, he was hired by George Montagu Bennett, the
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
In 1907, he also began taking in paying students, whom he instructed
in occult and magical practice.
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,
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
as well as his first attempt at an autobiography, The World's
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
He also wrote Liber
777, a book of magical and Qabalistic
that borrowed from Mathers and Bennett.
Into my loneliness comes --
The sound of a flute in
dim groves that haunt the uttermost hills.
Even from the brave
river they reach to the edge of the wilderness.
And I behold Pan.
opening lines of Liber VII (1907), the first of the Holy Books of
Thelema to be revealed to Crowley after The Book of the Law.
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
Osman Spare, Horace Sheridan-Bickers, author George Raffalovich,
Francis Henry Everard Joseph Feilding, engineer Herbert Edward Inman,
Kenneth Ward, and Charles
In March 1909, Crowley began production of a biannual periodical
Equinox. Acting as the "Official Organ" of the
A∴A∴, he billed this periodical as "The Review of
Scientific Illuminism". The philosophy it espoused was described
as "The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion", and it
contained articles on occultism, non-fiction pieces, and
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
Algeria and the Rites of Eleusis: 1909–11
In November 1909, Crowley and Neuburg travelled to Algeria,
touring the desert from El
Arba to Aumale,
and then Dā'leh
Addin, with Crowley reciting the Quran
on a daily basis. During the trip he performed rites of Enochian
magic, with Neuburg recording the results, later published in The
Equinox as The Vision and the Voice. Following a
magic ritual, Crowley also performed an invocation to the demon
sacrifice, considering the results to be a watershed in his
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
The publicity attracted new members to the A∴A∴,
among them Frank Bennett, James Bayley, Herbert Close, and James
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
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".i
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
and Crowley and Neuburg returned to Algeria for further magical
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
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
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.
Ordo Templi Orientis and the Paris Working:
Crowley in ceremonial garb, 1912
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
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
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
to Pan", and the Gnostic
Mass, a Thelemic ritual that became a key part of O.T.O.
Churton suggested that Crowley had travelled to Moscow on the orders
of British intelligence to spy on revolutionary elements in the
In January 1914 Crowley and Neuburg settled in to an apartment in
Paris, where the former was involved in the controversy surrounding
new monument to Oscar
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
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
United States: 1914–19
By 1914 Crowley was living a hand-to-mouth existence, relying
largely on donations and the membership fees from the O.T.O. and
In May he transferred ownership of Boleskine House to the MMM for
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
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
May Morn, one of Crowley's paintings from his time in the
US He explained it thus: "The painting represents the dawning of
the day following a witches' celebration as described in Faust.
The witch is hanged, as she deserves, and the satyr looks out from
behind a tree."
Professing to be of Irish ancestry and a supporter of Irish
independence from Great Britain, Crowley began to espouse views
supporting Germany in their war against Britain. He became involved
in New York's pro-German movement, and in January 1915 German spy
Sylvester Viereck employed him as a writer for his propagandist
Fatherland, which was dedicated to keeping the US neutral in
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 infiltrate and 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
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
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
Golden Bough and a work of literary criticism, The Gospel
According to Bernard Shaw.
In December he moved to New
Orleans, his favourite US city, before spending February 1917
with evangelical Christian relatives in Titusville,
Returning to New York, he moved in with artist and A∴A∴
Engers Kennedy, in May learning of his mother's death.
After the collapse of The Fatherland, Crowley continued his
association with Viereck, who appointed him contributing editor of
arts journal The International. Crowley used it to promote
Thelema, but it soon ceased publication.
He then moved to the studio apartment of Roddie Minor, who became his
partner and Scarlet Woman. Through their rituals, Crowley believed
that they were contacted by a preternatural entity named Alamantrah.
The relationship soon ended.
In 1918, Crowley went on a magical retreat in the wilderness of
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
Alexander VI, Alessandro
Cagliostro, and Eliphas
Levi, also painting Thelemic slogans on the riverside
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 in December.
Abbey of Thelema: 1920–23
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"
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.
The dilapidated Abbey
of Thelema in 2004
Moving to the commune with Hirsig, Shumway, and their children
Hansi, Howard, and Poupée, Crowley described the scenario as
"perfectly happy ... my idea of heaven."
They wore robes, and performed rituals to the sun god Ra
at set times during the day, also occasionally performing the Gnostic
Mass; the rest of the day they were left to follow their own
Undertaking widespread correspondences, Crowley continued to paint,
wrote a commentary on The Book of the Law, and revised the
third part of Book 4.
He offered a libertine education for the children, allowing them to
play all day and witness acts of sex magic.
He occasionally travelled to Palermo
to visit rent boys
and buy supplies, including drugs; his heroin addiction came to
dominate his life, and cocaine began to erode his nasal cavity.
There was no cleaning rota, and wild dogs and cats wandered
throughout the building, which soon became unsanitary.
Poupée died in October 1920, and Ninette gave birth to a
daughter, Astarte Lulu Panthea, soon afterwards.
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.
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.
Tunisia, Paris, and London: 1923–29
Crowley and Hirsig went to Tunis,
where, dogged by continuing poor health, he unsuccessfully tried
again to give up heroin,
and began writing what he termed his "autohagiography",
Confessions of Aleister Crowley.
They were joined in Tunis by the Thelemite Norman
Mudd, who became Crowley's public relations consultant.
Employing a local boy, Mohammad ben Brahim, as his servant, Crowley
went with him on a retreat to Nefta,
where they performed sex magic together.
In January 1924, Crowley travelled to Nice,
France, where he met with Frank
Harris, underwent a series of nasal operations,
and visited the Institute
for the Harmonious Development of Man, thinking positively of its
Destitute, he took on a wealthy student, Alexander Zu Zolar,
before taking on another American follower, Dorothy Olsen. Crowley
took Olsen back to Tunisia for a magical retreat in Nefta, where he
also wrote To Man (1924), a declaration of his own status as a
prophet entrusted with bringing Thelema to humanity.
After spending the winter in Paris, in early 1925 Crowley and Olsen
returned to Tunis, where he wrote The Heart of the Master
(1938) as an account of a vision he claimed to have experienced while
In March Olsen became pregnant, and Hirsig was called to take care of
her; she miscarried, following which Crowley took Olsen back to
France. Hirsig later distanced herself from Crowley, who then
According to Crowley, Reuss had named him head of the O.T.O. upon
his death, but this was challenged by leader of the German O.T.O.,
Tränker. Tränker called the Hohenleuben Conference in
Germany, which Crowley attended. There, prominent members like Karl
Germer and Martha Küntzel championed Crowley's leadership,
but others opposed 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 Scarlet Women 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; he never became a
He also befriended Thomas
Driberg; Driberg did not accept Thelema either.
It was here that Crowley also published one of his most significant
in Theory and Practice, which received little attention at
In December 1929 Crowley met the Nicaraguan Maria Teresa Sanchez,
who became his most significant Scarlet Woman of the period.
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
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
Mandrake's owner P.R. Stephenson meanwhile wrote The Legend of
Aleister Crowley, an analysis of the media coverage surrounding
Berlin and London: 1930–38
In April 1930, Crowley moved to Berlin,
where he took Hanni Jaegar as his new Scarlet Woman; the relationship
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
In August 1931, he took Bertha Busch as his new lover; they had a
violent relationship, and often physically assaulted one
He continued to have affairs with both men and women while in the
and met with famous people like Aldous
Huxley and Alfred
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.
I have been over forty years engaged in the
administration of the law in one capacity or another. I thought that
I knew of every conceivable form of wickedness. I thought that
everything which was vicious and bad had been produced at one time
or another before me. I have learnt in this case that we can always
learn something more if we live long enough. I have never heard such
dreadful, horrible, blasphemous and abominable stuff as that which
has been produced by the man (Crowley) who describes himself to you
as the greatest living poet.
Justice Swift, in Crowley's libel case.
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 agreed 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.
With the A∴A∴ effectively defunct, 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 Knüsel 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
Second World War and death: 1939–47
Crowley specified that Grady McMurtry succeed his chosen successor
as Head of O.T.O., Karl Germer.
When the Second
World War broke out, Crowley wrote to the Naval
Intelligence Division offering his services, but they declined.
He associated with a variety of figures in Britain's intelligence
community at the time, including Dennis
Fleming, and Maxwell
and claimed to have been behind the "V
for Victory" sign first used by the BBC;
this has never been proven.
In 1940, his asthma worsened, and with his German-produced medication
unavailable, he returned to using heroin, once again becoming
As the Blitz
hit London, Crowley relocated to Torquay,
where he was briefly hospitalised with asthma, and entertained
himself with visits to the local chess club.
Tiring of Torquay, he returned to London, where he was visited by
American Thelemite Grady
McMurtry, to whom Crowley awarded the title of "Hymenaeus
He stipulated that though Germer would be his immediate successor,
McMurty should succeed Germer as head of the O.T.O. after the
With O.T.O. initiate Lady
Frieda Harris, Crowley developed plans to produce a tarot
card set, designed by him and painted by Harris. Accompanying
this was a book, published in a limited edition as The
Book of Thoth by Chiswick
Press in 1944.
To aid the war effort, he wrote a proclamation on the rights of
humanity, Liber Oz, and a poem for the liberation of France,
Crowley's final publication during his lifetime was a book of poetry,
Olla: An Anthology of Sixty Years of Song.
Another of his projects, Aleister Explains Everything, was
posthumously published as Magick
In April 1944 Crowley briefly moved to Aston
Clinton in Buckinghamshire,
where he was visited by the poet Nancy
before relocating to Hastings
in Sussex, where he took up residence at the Netherwood boarding
He took a young man named Kenneth
Grant as his secretary, paying him in magical teaching rather
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
Corresponding with the illusionist Arnold
Crowther, it was through him that Crowley was introduced to
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,
Beliefs and thought
Aleister Crowley's rendition of the
Hexagram, the symbol of Thelema
Main article: Thelema
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 esotericism,
among them ceremonial magic, alchemy, astrology, Rosicrucianism,
Kabbalah, and the Tarot.
Philosopher John Moore opined that Crowley's thought was rooted in
and the Decadent
an assessment shared by historian Alex Owen, who noted that Crowley
adhered to the "modus operandi" of the decadent movement
throughout his life.
Crowley believed that the twentieth century marked humanity's
entry to the Aeon of Horus, a new era in which humans would take
increasing control of their destiny. He believed that this Aeon
follows on from the Aeon of Osiris, in which paternalistic religions
like Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism dominated the world, and that
this in turn had followed the Aeon of Isis, which had been
maternalistic and dominated by goddess worship.
Thelema revolves around the idea that human beings each have their
own True Will that they should discover and pursue, and that this
exists in harmony with the Cosmic Will that pervades the
The moral code of "Do What Thou Wilt" is believed by
Thelemites to be the faith's ethical law, although academic Marco
Pasi noted that this was not anarchistic
in structure, as Crowley saw individuals as part of a wider societal
Crowley believed in the objective existence of magic,
which he chose to spell "Magick". In his book Magick in
Theory and Practice, Crowley defined Magick as "the Science
and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will".
He also told his disciple Karl Germer that "Magick is getting
into communication with individuals who exist on a higher plane than
ours. Mysticism is the raising of oneself to their level."
Crowley saw Magick as a third way between religion and science,
giving The Equinox the subtitle of "The Method of
Science; the Aim of Religion".
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".
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 enjoyed being outrageous and flouting conventional
Symonds noting that he "was in revolt against the moral and
religious values of his time".
Crowley's political thought was subjected to an in-depth study by
academic Marco Pasi, who noted that for Crowley, socio-political
concerns were subordinate to metaphysical and spiritual ones.
Pasi argued that it was difficult to classify Crowley as being either
on the political left
but he was perhaps best categorised as a "conservative
revolutionary" despite not being affiliated with the
Pasi noted that Crowley sympathised with extreme ideologies like
in that they wished to violently overturn society, and hoped that
both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union might adopt Thelema.
Crowley described democracy as an "imbecile and nauseating cult
and commented that The Book of the Law proclaimed that "there
is the master and there is the slave; the noble and the serf; the
'lone wolf' and the herd".
In this attitude he was influenced by the work of Friedrich
Nietzsche and by Social
Crowley also saw himself as an aristocrat, describing himself as
Laird Boleskine; he had contempt for most of the British
and once described his socio-political views as "aristocratic
Crowley was bisexual, and exhibited a sexual preference for
In particular he had an attraction toward "exotic women",
and claimed to have fallen in love on multiple occasions; Kaczynski
stated that "when he loved, he did so with his whole being, but
the passion was typically short-lived".
Even in later life, he was able to attract young bohemian women to be
his lovers, largely due to his charisma.
During same-sex anal
intercourse, he usually played the passive role,
which Booth believed "appealed to his masochistic side".
Crowley argued that gay and bisexual people should not suppress their
sexual orientation, commenting that a person "must not be
ashamed or afraid of being homosexual if he happens to be so at
heart; he must not attempt to violate his own true nature because of
public opinion, or medieval morality, or religious prejudice which
would wish he were otherwise."
On other issues he adopted a more conservative attitude; he opposed
abortion on moral grounds, believing that no woman following her True
Will would ever desire one.
Views on race and gender
Biographer Lawrence Sutin stated that "blatant bigotry is a
persistent minor element in Crowley's writings".
Sutin thought Crowley "a spoiled scion of a wealthy Victorian
family who embodied many of the worst John
Bull racial and social prejudices of his upper-class
noting that he "embodied the contradiction that writhed within
many Western intellectuals of the time: deeply held racist viewpoints
courtesy of their culture, coupled with a fascination with people of
Crowley insulted his close Jewish friend Victor Neuburg using
slurs, and he had mixed feelings for Jews as a group. Although he
praised their "sublime" poetry and claimed that the "Jewish
race" contained "imagination, romance, loyalty, probity and
humanity in an exceptional degree", he also thought that
centuries of persecution had led some Jews to exhibit "avarice,
servility, falseness, cunning and the rest".
He was also known to praise various ethnic and cultural groups, for
instance he claimed that the Chinese people exhibited a "spiritual
superiority" to the English,
and praised Muslims for exhibiting "manliness,
straightforwardness, subtlety, and self-respect".
Crowley also exhibited a "general misogyny" that Booth
believed arose from his bad relationship with his mother.
Sutin noted that Crowley "largely accepted the notion,
implicitly embodied in Victorian sexology, of women as secondary
social beings in terms of intellect and sensibility".
Crowley described women as "moral inferiors" who had to be
treated with "firmness, kindness and justice".
Legacy and influence
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
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."
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
Steiner, or Helena
also describing him as a "living embodiment" of Oswald
Churton considered Crowley "a pioneer of consciousness
and Sutin thought that he had made "distinctly original
contributions" to the study of yoga in the West.
Thelema continued to develop and spread following Crowley's death.
In 1969, the O.T.O. was reactivated in California under the
leadership of Grady Louis McMurtry;
in 1985 its right to the title was unsuccessfully challenged in court
by a rival group, the Society Ordo Templi Orientis, led by Brazilian
Another American Thelemite was the filmmaker Kenneth
Anger, who had been influenced by Crowley's writings from a young
In the United Kingdom, Kenneth
Grant propagated a tradition known as Typhonian Thelema through
his organisation, the Typhonian OTO, later renamed the Typhonian
Also in Britain, an occultist known as Amado
Crowley claimed to be Crowley's son; these claims have been
refuted by academic investigation. Amado argued that Thelema was a
false religion created by Crowley to hide his true esoteric
teachings, which Amado claimed to be propagating.
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.
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
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 Club Band (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
made reference to Crowley in the lyrics of his song "Quicksand"
Osbourne and his lyricist Bob
Daisley wrote a song titled "Mr
Main article: List
of works by Aleister Crowley
- Bogdan, Henrik; Starr, Martin P. (2012). "Introduction".
In Bogdan, Henrik; Starr, Martin P. Aleister Crowley and Western
Esotericism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
pp. 3–14. ISBN 978-0-19-986309-9.
(2000). A Magick Life: The Biography of Aleister Crowley.
London: Coronet Books. ISBN 978-0-340-71806-3.
Richard (1978). "Crowley and After". A History of
Magic. London: Sphere Books. pp. 167–79.
Tobias (2011). Aleister Crowley: The Biography. London:
Watkins Books. ISBN 978-1-78028-012-7.
Crowley, Aleister (1989). The Confessions of Aleister Crowley:
An Autohagiography. London: Arkana. ISBN 978-0-14-019189-9.
Lon Milo (2003). The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook
of Rituals of Thelema. San Francisco: Weiser.
Dyrendal, Asbjørn (2012). "Satan and the Beast: The
Influence of Aleister Crowley on Modern Satanism". In Bogdan,
Henrik; Starr, Martin P. Aleister Crowley and Western
Esotericism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
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