About a month ago Marcie asked me to design a Disinfo.com magick poll and I came up with a quick one in like 5 minutes. I wish I would have put more thought into it and included people like John Dee, Peter Carroll, and Lon Milo Duquette but, you know, I admittedly half assed it and fired off an e-mail all quick like. It’s not like this is something I had been contemplating or planning on writing about at the time.
Here’s where I confess that the topic chosen was ultimately designed to help me gauge whether the modern Occultists I look up to and respect have exceeded the popularity of the self-proclaimed “great beast” Aleister Crowley. It was my suspicion that they hadn’t, but even I was sort of disappointed that Crowley got more votes than both Alan Moore and Grant Morrison combined (Moore edged out Morrison by 2 votes and they came in at #2 and #3 respectively).
“Wait, did you just say that’s disappointing?”
Yeah, really disappointing honestly. But why? Well, I don’t know how to break this to you, but based on my experiences with the Occult, Crowley was such a hack magickian that it’s sort of unbelievable. Dude completely sucked at what he was trying to accomplish with magick and, because of that, his life was a complete freaking disaster. In fact, it was a discussion that went down on my FB page (friend me) that inspired this fun little rant. The idea that there can be an Occultist who doesn’t obediently lick the taint of the supposed Master Therion is something that infuriates a bunch of people. “How can that be, just how can that be?” They stammer. Well, super easy as I’m about to explain.
My experiences with “the great work” of Crowley are odd as, no, he wasn’t the reason that I got into the Occult. In fact, he was precisely the reason it took me so long to get into magick by virtue of his being such a shitty writer (art is subjective, just my opinion). I tried to read Diary of a Drug Fiend in my early 20’s and made it to maybe page 75 before being like, “wow does this guy’s writing suck”. This is a book that’s supposed to be about a “drug fiend” and it is somehow insufferably boring. What do I remember of it? Some rich kid goes to old timey parties where nothing interesting happens. So I ignored Crowley for quite a while after that, as I should have. There are a lot of writers in the universe, why would I waste my time reading a crappy one?
Of course, the person that initially piqued my interest in the Occult and probably the reason that I picked up that book in the first place was Robert Anton Wilson. To this day, when anyone asks if I’d recommend reading Crowley, I’d tell them resoundingly no, and I have read several of his books at this point. Don’t waste your time. I’m a practicing Occultist (granted more of the Chaos Magick variety) and I have never gotten anything out of reading Crowley. Period. End of story. Not a single fucking thing. That being said, I could listen to Wilson talk about Crowley forever. He does a great job of digging through the glut of utter bullshit surrounding the man. Wilson conveniently breaks down what Crowley was doing into the mantra of “hash based sex tantra”, or yoga, in books like the godhead brilliant Cosmic Trigger and the criminally underrated Sex & Drugs (originally titled Sex, Drugs, and the Occult but that title was deemed too controversial by Playboy publishing). What I practice could be regarded as weed based sex magick to this day because of that. And the thing is, it seems that that was only a minor part of Crowley’s practice, or just what R.A.W. wanted to think as a card carrying pot smoking hippie. It’s what Wilson was doing when he contacted Sirius at the very least. As mentioned, I have exactly zero idea what Crowley was writing about, but Wilson talks a good game about him. And there is an absolute value in pointing out that AC wasn’t the Satanist he was frequently accused of being by contemporary tabloids. He was ultimately trying to liberate humanity from the repression of drugs and sexuality imposed upon them by organized religion. Crowley is absolutely to be commended and admired for that, but it wasn’t until I was summoned into the Occult and started practicing that I looked into him further.
For a few years after I started my practice, I had this glamorized admiration of him based on Wilson’s mythos, but you know what’s funny? Probably the first thing that soured me on him was the Disinformation released film In Search of the Great Beast 666. You can check it here via Vimeo:
Editor’s Note: Because of Thad’s essay, we’ll run a 48 hour sale on “In Search of the Great Beast 666”. You can rent/stream the film for $3 and download/own for $7.50 using the code “thadmckraken” when checking out. The code will expire on Friday.
If you watched that film and came away thinking that Crowley was some amazingly cool guy, then please, just go shoot yourself. But it’s not that the film is just slandering him to sell units, it’s the dude’s life which can be read about in a multitude of other places and verified. So, in confronting the reality of Crowley vs. the hippified Wilson mythology of Crowley, you realize that while he may not be the Satanist the Christian right pegged him to be, one thing is absolutely certain: The guy was an insufferable asshole who treated everyone around him like shit — on purpose. No one is even going to argue otherwise. Oh, and a total woman beater. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure woman beater even cuts it, the guy was like a woman torturer both mentally and physically and no, not always in the consensual S & M sort of way. Of his three “scarlet women”, 2 ended up in mental institutions and 1 committed suicide. Nearly all of them became drug addicts of some variety. On that note, here’s a fun Crowley quote in regards to women:
“Morally and Mentally…women were for me beneath contempt. They had no moral ideals. They were bound up with their necessary function of reproduction…Intellectually, of course, they did not exist.”
But, you know, he liked to fuck them because:
“It was highly convenient that one’s sexual relations should be with an animal with no consciousness beyond sex.”
Was he also a racist? Absolutely. Pedophile? Yep, involved children in his heroin fueled sex magick rituals at the Abbey of Thelema. Dead beat dad? For sure. He was a total pile of shit human being all around. And this begs the question, is it possible to be a total pile of shit human being who treats everyone like crap and still be a great magickian? Based on my experience? No, that means you suck quite spectacularly.
I don’t know how to tell you this, but ever since I opened up a dialogue with what classic Occultists would refer to as my Holy Guardian Angel (you can read about how this all went down in my book super cheap) nearly all of the communique transmitted has involved my karmic impact on others quite specifically. Even before I got into magick I had an astral projection life review experience which affects everything I do to this day and has been a large factor in how I frame the intent of my work. It ain’t that complicated. According to what I’ve been shown, this entire reality is connected on a 4th dimensional level by what Christians would call the Holy Spirit. The repeatability of remote viewing confirms this, I might point out. We look like a singular entity from the perspective of the father or mother in that equation when they view our reality from, what I call, the 5th dimension. So when you say, bitch slap your girlfriend (something Crowley was a huge fan of apparently) it distantly generates “a sensation not unlike slapping yourself in the face” to quote the classic Jane’s Addiction lyric. In the grand scheme of things, you might has well have bitch slapped yourself. The point is to say hermetic philosophy is to ascend to godhood, and that negative karma is precisely what’s keeping you grounded in the flesh. But, that’s just, like, you’re opinion man. Well, no, actually. Tons of near death experiencers have run into the exact same shit which is where I got the term “life review” from in the first place, and it’s not like I invented the concept of karma.
And that’s the most confusing thing about “the great beast”. On one hand it’s sort of awesome that a rich kid decided to spend the time that his money freed up passionately studying spirituality. But it’s also sort of preternaturally mind blowing that he could do so and somehow completely fail to grasp such a basic concept as karma. And that’d be the real reason I’m writing this. I thought Crowley’s idiocy was relatively harmless, but having spent two years continually chatting about spirituality on the internets, I now see the damage of his legacy first hand. Every time I write about karma I get some Occultist messaging me saying, “Why are you talking about karma dude, that’s just something that people make up?” If you’ll recall, this was EA Koetting’s position on the matter quite precisely. To think that Crowley wasn’t an enormous influence on someone like Koetting is naïve as all get out. The fact that the biggest name in the Occult just so happened to live his life with a complete disregard for the way he treated everyone lead to an entire generation of Occult creepsters desperate to believe in such easy answers. That’s what you get from Crowley. Easy answers. How do you know if a spiritual teacher is full of crap? If they tell you that spirituality is easy. Hey, dark ass, spooky Occultists, the idea that you have to answer for your actions in a world of mind rape corporate psychology encouraging precisely the opposite IS the most utterly brutal concept imaginable. You want to believe that the god training program we’re immersed in is set on easy, but I’ve got news for you, from what I’ve seen, it is set on super duper extra fucking hard. Nothing more brutal than that.
Another factor inspiring this rant has to do with Gary Lachman’s new book on Crowley, which like the Disinfo film, shatters the popular myth that Crowley was some amazing sorcerer or liberator of humanity. It’s what he wanted to be, for sure, he just failed miserably. Even devoid of the metaphysical connotations of karma, Crowley being an asshole to people blew up in his face over and over and over again. I’ve got to be honest, reading the book made me develop a minor amount of sympathy for the guy. I mean, a lot of it is just standard alcoholic/drug addict fare (although admittedly with a creepy negative prick vibe). It’s important to point out that Crowley might have started out with some promise, but eventually evolved into an amazingly useless alcoholic/drug addict rather than a great spiritual master.
I love the story of the slander trial that ultimately left him destitute. The whole thing was his brain child. His lawyer told him quite specifically that there was zero chance he was going to win, but Crowley was so desperate and fucked up on drugs that he just went through with it anyway. Also, AC was a straight-up materialistic twat who, despite having vast resources at his disposal, constantly blew his money on frivolous shit so he could live that “bling bling” lifestyle, even skipping out on checks when he couldn’t afford it anymore. Never worked an honest day in his life. You know when you hear a story about a multi-millionaire who is so irresponsible with money that they’re now broke and you’re like, lord, how on earth could anyone be that stupid? Crowley was that stupid.
Which begs the question, how do you go around talking about the power of the will and contacting your “true will”, while simultaneously being the most weak willed motherfucker in the universe? Crowley sucked at magick by his own definitions of magick, which weren’t really his own. Something I actually respect about Crowley is how he studied a ton of different spiritual traditions and cut and pasted them together to form his own outlook and practice. I do the same thing, but it’s also why I find people that look to Crowley as their supreme prophet a tad confusing. It’s like, read a bunch of other teachers and see what sticks, that’s what he was doing. If he’s your inspiration, be inspired by the diversity of his knowledge, don’t adhere to his recommendations dogmatically. I would never deny that the guy was a great scholar of spirituality, I’d just argue that he was a shit practitioner. Which is precisely the opposite of what he purported himself to be and what people today think he was. Even on the great scholar front, he was a rich kid that didn’t have to work. Frees up a lot of time to read and experiment, a luxury most aspiring Occultists will never ever have — not to mention the high society connections that his wealth engendered.
And on the drug addiction front, I haven’t written about this much as of yet, but one thing I’ve been shown consistently in visions is how there’s way more going on behind the scenes of the drug war than anyone is really acknowledging. How do things like narcotics and alcohol enslave and control people exactly? There’s a spiritual component to all that that’s way darker and occluded than anyone I’ve read is hip to. Just what I’ve been shown over and over again, not to mention what I’ve lived. I’ve done my share of narcotics and used to be about as functioning a total drunk as humanly possible. It’s not like these things can’t be used to inspire creativity, in fact, I was an impressively productive drunk. It’s just that a life of continual alcohol abuse or narcotic excess isn’t sustainable, whereas with weed, fuck, you can be incredibly high functioning and simultaneously baked all the goddamn time. Not that that’s necessarily optimal. Again, you want dark, spooky, and brutal? Think about the fact that you might live to be 80.
Why did I pull myself out of my alcoholic nosedive? Well, in addition to the threats to the longevity of my health, it was also because it was shown to me that this is roughly the easiest way for daemonic forces to control you. No, really. Have I ever had a creepy screaming match with one of my lovers (several of whom have attacked me physically, I might point out) when both of us weren’t insanely wasted? Nope. So that’s my take on Crowley, that the guy got completely owned by daemonic forces. A true sorcerer commands these dark yin forces around with the power and purity of his intent and will, Crowley was merely a puppet of these very forces due to a supreme lack of inner purity. He invoked spirits that he was far too weak willed to control, and so they ended up controlling him. They tried to teach him lessons that would aid him on his quest for godhood, he refused to learn these lessons. The popular theory, according to Wilson, is that Crowley was some genius who transmitted the long buried tradition of hash based sex tantra to modern culture. But I have an alternate theory: that he was used as an implement by daemonic forces to keep western society far, far away from this tradition. I’ll take the fact that I seem to be the only one writing about the practice in this day and age as evidence of that theory. Seriously, weed’s being legalized and I see exactly no one talking about its potentialities as a meditational aid. Don’t fool yourself, the Occult is currently a complete non-factor culturally. Even atheists calling themselves Satanists are making us look pathetic in their clever challenges of the Christian right. Crowley’s lame ass cohort L. Ron Hubbard was far more influential, and you know, quite possibly way more evil. He just had his shit together in way Crowley could never manage.
And yeah, as Peter Bergebal has pointed out, Crowley has been an enormous influence on rock music. But again, he also points out that almost none of the musicians seemingly influenced by him have had the balls or discipline to actually experiment with the rituals he prescribed, which were mostly just stuff he read in other books. Most people don’t have the desire to be evil dicks, and that’s why they were embracing the imagery in the first place, as a marketing gimmick designed to move units by virtue of pissing off parents. When you buy into the horror movie imagery currently surrounding the Occult (which Crowley is largely responsible for, let’s face it), YOU’RE AGREEING WITH THE CHURCH—NOT REBELLING AGAINST IT. Think about that. Yeah, I get it, the Christian right slandered the dude for being Satanic and that’s bullshit, but he played it up with his whole “I am the Great Beast 666” nonsense. He was a pioneer of the Howard Stern “all press is good press” mantra and the only reason I’m writing about him has to do with his status as a media whore. People today love to believe it was all a practical joke but it wasn’t really. The guy truly wanted to align himself with Satan. Even if it was a practical joke, it was one that backfired against his own intentions quite spectacularly. He gave the sex repressos exactly what they were looking for and he further validated their position by being a complete dickwad with zero sense of empathy or emotional intelligence. If you don’t think he bought into this “practical joke” persona, then all you need do is look at his life. He was absolutely locked into playing the role of the spooky evil villain.
Sure, it’s also well known that Jimmy Page was a big fan, but it’s also lesser known that, at one point, Jimmy Page kidnapped a 14-year-old for use as a sex slave. With Page you can do the whole, well, you’ve got to separate the artist from the art thing (Page is an enormous influence on my guitar playing), and that’s where I get lost with Crowley. What exactly did he do that was so great exactly? I suppose he was ahead of his time in the sense that he was sort of famous more for being rich and famous rather than actually accomplishing anything. His book Magick in Theory and Practice was supposed to be his attempt to bring magick to everyone, to help the common man transcend the limitations imposed upon them by organized religion. It’s the same thing I’m trying to do, but you know why I haven’t read his book? Because when I looked at the Amazon reviews most of them said it was incomprehensible, just like everything else I’ve read by him. So, he resolutely failed at what he was attempting to accomplish with that book at least. I’ve seen his paintings. “Meh” at best.
But he was a master channeler who contacted Aiwass and downloaded important information for humanity. That’s where I further get lost. I’ve tried to figure out what he channeled exactly and have largely come up with: a bunch of bad poetry that paints him as yet another messiah. He was such an arrogant dumbass that he literally described himself as “the greatest living poet” constantly. You know what else, I freaking hate the phrase “Do What Thou Wilt Shall be the Whole of the Law.” I hate it because it can be interpreted a vast number of ways and if you ask seven different Occultists, they’ll give you seven different interpretations. To further this point, I recently read a chunk of Kenneth Grant’s Outside the Circles of Time (couldn’t finish it, too pointless) and read his interpretation, which was something I’ve never encountered before. You know what else? It didn’t make sense. I read the same passage like 8 times before going, ummm, yeah, that doesn’t actually add up, my man. It started to, but then you lost me. And as Lachman points out in this brilliant discussion on Reality Sandwich, while the phrase isn’t supposed to mean: “do whatever the fuck you want,” (of which he was one for several years before wising up), that’s precisely how it’s applied by his followers. But you’re leaving out the Love Under Will part. Sure, most people do, but what the fuck does that even mean? Love under will? Huh? Wouldn’t love be over will? It could be interpreted a million different ways and let us not forget that no one says “thou” or “wilt” anymore. Also that the whole phrase was ultimately something that he borrowed from William Blake. Pure genius, clearly. Also, the guy was a sex magickian who seemingly had no interest in creating any sort of spiritual connection with his lovers. They were just meat to him. Again, total hack. What the fuck did he know about love?
Well, this has most likely pissed mostly everyone off, and it’s far longer than I’m sure most have the attention span for in a Disinfo post. I’ll conclude with this thought. I’ve been shown that our entire world is basically a parody of higher level functioning, and you’ve got to admit that propping up a magickian who completely sucked at magick as some sort of master is about the most hilarious daemonic joke the other side has ever perpetuated on humanity. Possibly more hilarious than the Christians who act in complete opposition to the teachings of Christ. Wait, no, that’s way funnier. Here’s the part where I mention that in contemplating all this, daemonic forces showed up in my meditational states and confirmed their complicity in using the guy as an implement to repress spiritual inquiry. “Just doing our job” as they told me after bombarding my consciousness with some of the most exotic shape shifting mind art I’ve ever witnessed. On a final note, Crowley was all about questioning and challenging authority and he has officially not only become an authority in the Occult, he has most unfortunately become THE authority in the Occult. Calling bullshit on that underserved status is pretty much EXACTLY what good old Uncle Al would have wanted. Ruminate on that a bit before you rage comment.
Also, be sure to check out Gary Lachman’s book. Phenomenal work.
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