Aleister Crowley was a dick.

I’ve known that for a long time, mind you.  I read his “autohagiography” (a hagiography being the biography of a saint) when I was a teenager.  He had some interesting magickal ideas, a lot of which is well worth studying if you have an interest in the occult, but as a man?  He was a horrible, horrible person.  He performed sexual rites with children present.  He personally killed at least two cats in his lifetime, one of which he tortured to death as a child.  (The second one was drained of blood, which his acolyte drank.) Almost all of his Scarlet Women wound up in mental institutions; granted, he tended to pick fairly unstable women to begin with, but he pushed them far past their limits both mentally and physically.  He thought Ayn Rand was brilliant.  He was an anti-Semite and a racist.  He beat people, played sadistic pranks, ruined marriages.  And he generally got away with it, because somehow he was charming as hell.  What brought him down in the end was heroin, not his treatment of others.

He’s interesting to study, though.  He had moments of brilliance, and he had a lasting effect on pop culture — especially on music.  Everyone from Jimmy Page to Jay-Z to Ke$ha has used his imagery and ideas over the years.  And his magickal writings are fascinating.  The religion he created, Thelema, still has its adherents.  I have a close relationship with a thelemite, and what she takes away from his teachings is quite beautiful.  Many founders of religions were terrible people, but Crowley’s “every man and woman is a star” is a beautiful thought no matter who it came from.

Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World by Gary Lachman is the most intriguing biography of Crowley that I’ve read.  It’s exceptionally readable.  Lachman, a former member of Blondie and a longtime occultist, writes critically but with a sense of humor.  I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in the life of the Great Beast.

Random fact: Crowley rhymes with “holy”.  I find this amusing.

Categories: History


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