The Cult of Aleister Crowley Lives On

NOTE: This article first appeared on July 20, 2014 on the Baltimore Post-Examiner. It has been republished with the author’s permission.

Aleister_Crowley,_wickedest_man_in_the_world“It was sex that rotted him. It was sex, sex, sex, sex, sex all the way with Crowley. He was a sex maniac!”- Vittoria Cremers

John Lennon, Timothy Leary, Iggy Pop, the Jonas Brothers and the Rolling Stones’ rock group all were influenced in one way or another by him. He was into sex, ceremonial magic, yoga and the occult, like no other so-called “spiritual seeker” of his time. His name was Aleister Crowley and he was British to the core. His motto was: “Do What Thou Wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will.”

Crowley followed his own mantra right to the very end of his Christianity-hating, drug-abusing and higher consciousness-seeking life. If you want to know what Crowley looked like in his prime, check out that famous cover of the Beatles’best-selling album – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He’s the dude with the shaven head and bulging eyes. Crowley, a hero then to many in the “Pop Culture,” is swished in between two other fabled icons of the ’60’s, Marilyn Monroe and Che Guevara.

Author Gary Lachman has done an excellent job profiling Crowley, aka “The Great Beast 666.”

He came by his interest in this unusual man with a monstrous ego via an interesting route. Back in the 1970’s, Lachman was playing in a Rock and Roll band in New York. One of his bandmates had a thing for the occult.

The musician also had a copy of one of Crowley’s novels, The Diary of a Drug Fiend. This led Lachman to lodge onto another of Crowley’s literary efforts, Moonchild. It’s “roman a clef” showing members of the London-based “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn,” in a very negative way. William Butler Yeats and Crowley were members of that group, even so, Crowley despised the Irish poet.

The title of Lachman’s book is: Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, the Wickedest Man in the World.

Crowley’s huge mug is on the cover. He was born in England in 1875 and despite a life of extreme excess, including lots of booze, drugs, hookers and sex, and later on a serious addiction to heroin, Crowley managed to live till 1947.  At one time, he was even into serious mountaineering and proved himself very adept at it. The Alpine mountaineering community held him in the highest esteem.

Crowley loved women and he was also an active homosexual. He married twice and had three children. He wrote poems, novels and books. Much of his work, because of its shocking nature, was self-published. He may even have been a spy for the Brits and/or the Nazis. Who knows?

Like William S. Burroughs of American notoriety, (think Naked Lunch) who emerged during the post-WWII “Beat Generation,” Crowley came from wealth. He never had to work a day in his life. Crowley also got a solid education, which included the best prep schools and a degree from Cambridge University. As a result, Crowley was able to dedicate his life to his “religion.” He called it, “Thelema.” A religion/philosophy needs a sacred text. So, Crowley made one up by way of his contact with a “Higher Power.” He then bestowed on it the moniker — The Book of the Law.

Talking about addictions, I’m into the forensic crime shows on the cable networks. I couldn’t help but notice on several programs, that when relating the bio on an individual who suddenly went way off the tracks into a life of crime, the turning point was when the father of the bad guy unexpectedly died. Is this what happened in Crowley’s case, too?

Crowley’s father was out of the upper class and a fervent evangelical, bible-belting Christian. He died of “cancer of the tongue,” when Crowley was only eleven. The young Crowley scorned his mother. Of that transformative period, he recalled, “I simply went over to Satan’s side; and to this hour I cannot tell why … and I felt passionately eager to serve my new master. I was anxious to distinguish myself by committing sin.”

Well, Crowley, often an arrogant character, sure did dedicate his life to the goal of sinning. Traveling widely, there were few major cities on the globe where he hadn’t left a sample of his sperm. And, author Lachman captures just about every one of his sins, including disgusting acts of sadomasochism, in every awful, smelly detail. Crowley also made several visits to the U.S. New Orleans was “his favorite city.”

Gary LachmanI wonder why?

Crowley was into documenting too, via letter-writing, books and pamphlets, his often weird ideas, outrageous behavior and quest for hedonistic thrills. This was particularly so when he formed an Abbey of Thelemalites at Cefalu, Sicily. Eventually, Italy’s then-dictator, Benito Mussolini was offended. He gave Crowley and his groupies the boot.

By the way, author Lachman was a founding member of the rock group, “Blondie.” He also wrote the excellent book, Jung, the Mystic.

In this well-researched tome, Lachman also does a masterful job demonstrating Crowley’s far-reaching legacy. It extends today into many areas of our counter-culture, such as magic, painting, mysticism, esotericism, filmmaking, punk and rock music, heavy metal, death-loving goths and the occult.

With respect to filmmaking, I think some of the iconic director John Waters’ bad taste flicks have a noticeable Crowley influence. Take his Dirty Shame movie for instance, in which I had a cameo role. The plot centers around a city neighborhood that is divided between the “puritans” and the “sex perverts.” The latter clique of crazies engage shamelessly in their “unique fetishes.” (Think,“Do What Thou Wilt!”).

Waters, now a best-selling author, thanks to the popularity of his tome, Carsick, just happens to keep an electric chair in his Tudor-styled house in Baltimore. So Crowleyish!

Back to Lachman’s book. It’s a terrific read containing a wealth of credible information on what caused the British’s tabloid, John Bull, to tag the wanna-be prophet Crowley as the “wickedest man in the world!”

Finally, whatever the final word on the controversial Crowley will be, his portrait today does hang in London’s prestigious National Gallery.

His cult, for better or worse, lives on.

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  • Adam’s Shadow

    I read Lachman’s “Politics and the Occult”; good stuff.

    • http://disinfo.com/ Majestic

      Veteran Disinfonauts may recall that disinformation published Gary Lachman’s book “Turn Off Your Mind” in 2003, a sort of alternative/occult history of the Sixties (http://amzn.to/1o1CTlr)

      • Spasmodius

        I read “Turn Off Your Mind”, the new book should be well worth reading if it’s up to the author’s prevous standard.

  • Juan

    I am looking forward to reading this in actual book form.

    • Mr Grim

      Yeah, it’d be good if any of the comments on this were based on actual substance. Lots of anonymous upvoting of critiques.

      I’m withholding judgement until I know more, myself.

  • Anthony Nefertem

    I can hardly believe such utter bias and slander contained within this article. The author and dis-information should feel ashamed of this warped narrow-view of Crowley. The author focuses his one-dimensional views of the inherently dualistic nature of Crowley. Sure, he was a piece of shit, but his written works and incredibly detailed documentation of his experiments are invaluable to those who practice this craft. His dedication to this craft far surpasses many “spiritual seekers” (a dubious description I might add. Are we not all in some sense ‘spiritual seekers’ on our own paths?). I can quite confidently say the author has never read a single book from Crowley thus shaping his warped view on rumor, myth, and misunderstandings. The author clearly misses the point on why his Work (and not his personal life) is held in such high esteem. Shame.

    • kowalityjesus

      you can’t criticize something for not being on your level. The appeal is more universal. references to deeper works would support your critique.

    • Mr Grim

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a skewed proportion of anonymous “guest” votes to keep a post at the top here.

      The weird thing is, I read the same article and I don’t see anything that could be seriously considered slander (or that Crowley himself would have considered slander, possibly more to the point), or that I haven’t read in one form or another previously.

      Methinks Mr Nefertem has well and truly drunk the kool-aid, and protesteth too much.

      • Jiro M. Trismegistus

        “The weird think is, I read the same article and I don’t see anything that could be seriously considered slander (or that Crowley himself would have considered slander, possibly more to the point), or that I haven’t read in one form or another previously.”
        I wholeheartedly agree Mr Grim.
        I have read The Eye In The Triangle (I actually named my little boy Aleister) and this sounds no worse than most of what was written by Mr. Regardie who was Crowley’s secretary for a time. These people remind me of the ‘Merkans who get all defensive about their guns and gods and capitalism.
        The Beast might have been pretty proud of most of this stuff. HA

        • Jiro M. Trismegistus

          Not that this article was particularly entertaining enlightening or even very good by my standards, I just don’t find it a terrible insult to Old Beast Boy.

      • Anthony Nefertem

        All I’m saying is the article is very one-sided. The author chooses to focus on the negative aspects of Crowley’s personal life, which completely misrepresents the accomplishments of his Work. Further, the author’s deceptive adulteration of the phrase “Do What Thou Wilt” is sickening. It does NOT mean do whatever the fuck you want. The concept postulates that each individual has a unique and incommensurable inherent nature (which is identical to their “destiny”) that determines their proper course in life, that is the mode of action that unites their purest personal will with the postulated course that preexists for them in the universe.

        Any serious ‘spiritual seeker’ or student of western mysticism would find a great wealth of information from his Works. *Liber ABA* (Book 4) and *Magick Without Tears* for example provide a strong backbone to any interested in this craft. His Work and accomplishments are still very relevant today. Im not defending Crowley’s personal life, he was a flawed human and most assuredly a shitty person but also a prolific author and a genius to be respected.

        Love is the law, Love under Will.

        • Mr Grim

          I guess we all have our own interpretations, but FWIW I honestly didn’t see it as particularly one-sided or insulting: as noted, I don’t think he would have either. (More likely he would have seen it as good publicity, if anything.)

          Possibly that’s because I didn’t think many aspects noted were particularly “negative” either. One man’s negative”, etc. but that’s just me, heh.

          With regard to the law of Thelema, maybe I give people too much credit, but I think most folk reading this here at disinfo would understand it in terms of the correct intent.

          At the end of it all, I didn’t see how it said anything about The Beast that we didn’t already know, or that it refuted or devalued the actual work. Your mileage seems to vary, but as someone who first read Book 4 about 25 years ago (where does the time go, eh?) I just didn’t feel there was a particular need to mount a defence, probably because I didn’t see it particularly as an attack.

          While I don’t subscribe to the theory that all publicity is good publicity, anything new coming along that gets folk reading seems likely to lead a certain proportion to delve further and actually study his works more closely, which seems to be a Good Thing.

    • http://churchofeuthanasia.org/ HypGnotist

      I see in almost any time someone writes about Crowley – it’s all the disgusting adjectives they throw in that would make one think Crowley lived in a freak’ SEWER. I’d be interested in just ONE article that isn’t loaded with preconceived notions of what he ‘is’ and has just a little bit of dignity to the story. When the time is convenient for the Believers, Crowley could easily besome the ‘anti-crist’. I just want to know what he was really like!

  • InfvoCuernos

    It wasn’t all sex-there was a lot of drugs too.

  • Ramsey Mekdaschi

    Read the Eye in the Triangle written by Isreal Regardie, someone who was actually one of Crowley’s friends instead of this biased diatrible.

    • Adam’s Shadow

      I’m not sure if Lachman’s actual book is going to be as much of a screed against Crowley as this “review” is (at least, I hope not), but Regardie’s book is a fantastic personal account. I also really like Lawrence Sutin’s “Do What Thou Wilt,” which I think is a pretty balanced, objective bio.

    • Juan

      Yeah, I really enjoyed Regardie’s book.

  • alizardx

    Article review: that’s 90 seconds of not especially entertaining tinfoil I’ll never get back. Wish RAW were still around to give this review the burial it deserves.

    Judging from article, book is based on all the tabloid FUD/hysteria generated by publications about “the wickedest man in the world” while Crowley was alive, updated with 70s anti-Satanic cult hysteria.

    Has anyone read the actual book? A decently done study of Crowley’s influence on modern culture would be of great interest, but not if I have to strain out tinfoil or astrofoil shreds while reading.

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