Aleister Crowley was an English occultist, philosopher, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer.
152 Facts About Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley was educated at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, where he focused his attentions on mountaineering and poetry, resulting in several publications.
Aleister Crowley went mountaineering in Mexico with Oscar Eckenstein, before studying Hindu and Buddhist practices in India.
In 1904, he married Rose Edith Kelly and they honeymooned in Cairo, Egypt, where Aleister 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.
Aleister Crowley spent the First 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.
Aleister Crowley divided the following two decades between France, Germany, and England, and continued to promote Thelema until his death.
Aleister Crowley gained widespread notoriety during his lifetime, being a drug user, bisexual, and an individualist social critic.
Aleister Crowley has remained a highly influential figure over Western esotericism and the counterculture of the 1960s, and continues to be considered a prophet in Thelema.
Aleister Crowley is the subject of various biographies and academic studies.
Aleister Crowley was born Edward Alexander Aleister Crowley at 30 Clarendon Square in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, on 12 October 1875.
Aleister 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; Emily likewise converted upon marriage.
Aleister 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.
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 Aleister Crowley considered a sadist.
In March 1887, when Aleister Crowley was 11, his father died of tongue cancer.
Aleister Crowley described this as a turning point in his life, and he always maintained an admiration of his father, describing him as "my hero and my friend".
Aleister Crowley then attended Malvern College and Tonbridge School, both of which he despised and left after a few terms.
Aleister 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.
Aleister 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 player.
Aleister Crowley embraced his love of literature and poetry, particularly the works of Richard Francis Burton and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Aleister Crowley 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 Monch without a guide.
Aleister Crowley fulfilled these conditions and Aleister is the Gaelic form of Alexander.
Aleister Crowley had his first significant mystical experience while on holiday in Stockholm in December 1896.
In October 1897, Aleister Crowley met Herbert Charles Pollitt, president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club, and the two entered into a relationship.
In 1897, Aleister Crowley travelled to Saint Petersburg in Russia, later saying that he was trying to learn Russian as he was considering a future diplomatic career there.
In October 1897, a brief illness triggered considerations of mortality and "the futility of all human endeavour", and Aleister Crowley abandoned all thoughts of a diplomatic career in favour of pursuing an interest in the occult.
That same year, Aleister Crowley privately published 100 copies of his poem Aceldama: A Place to Bury Strangers In, but it was not a particular success.
That same year, Aleister Crowley 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.
Aleister 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 in the Golden Dawn's Isis-Urania Temple held at London's Mark Masons Hall, where Aleister Crowley took the magical motto and name "Frater Perdurabo", which he interpreted as "I shall endure to the end".
In November 1899, Aleister Crowley purchased Boleskine House in Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness in Scotland.
Aleister Crowley 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.
Aleister Crowley soon progressed through the lower grades of the Golden Dawn, and was ready to enter the group's inner Second Order.
Aleister Crowley was unpopular in the group; his bisexuality and libertine lifestyle had gained him a bad reputation, and he had developed feuds with some of the members, including W B Yeats.
In 1900, Aleister Crowley travelled to Mexico via the United States, settling in Mexico City and starting a relationship with a local woman.
Aleister Crowley later claimed to have been initiated into Freemasonry while there, and he wrote a play based on Richard Wagner's Tannhauser as well as a series of poems, published as Oracles.
Briefly stopping in Japan and Hong Kong, Aleister Crowley reached Ceylon, where he met with Allan Bennett, who was there studying Shaivism.
Aleister 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.
Aleister Crowley spent much of this time studying at the Meenakshi Temple in Madura.
Aleister Crowley contracted malaria, and had to recuperate from the disease in Calcutta and Rangoon.
Together, the Eckenstein-Aleister Crowley expedition attempted K2, which had never been climbed.
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 Magician.
Aleister 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 Aleister Crowley would serve as its prophet.
Aleister Crowley said that at the time he had been unsure what to do with The Book of the Law.
Aleister Crowley 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.
Aleister Crowley decided to climb Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas of Nepal, widely recognized as the world's most treacherous mountain.
Subsequently, Pache and several porters were killed in an accident, something for which Aleister Crowley was widely blamed by the mountaineering community.
Aleister Crowley smoked opium throughout the journey, which took the family from Tengyueh through to Yungchang, Tali, Yunnanfu, and then Hanoi.
Aleister Crowley then sailed to Japan and Canada, before continuing to New York City, where he unsuccessfully solicited support for a second expedition up Kanchenjunga.
Aleister Crowley began short-lived romances with actress Vera "Lola" Neville and author Ada Leverson, while Rose gave birth to Crowley's second daughter, Lola Zaza, in February 1907.
Aleister Crowley claimed that in doing so he attained samadhi, or union with Godhead, thereby marking a turning point in his life.
Aleister Crowley claimed to have been contacted 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 The Holy Books of Thelema.
Aleister Crowley stated 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 truth.
Aleister Crowley continued to write prolifically, producing such works of poetry as Ambergris, Clouds Without Water, and Konx Om Pax, as well as his first attempt at an autobiography, The World's Tragedy.
Aleister Crowley wrote Liber 777, a book of magical and Qabalistic correspondences that borrowed from Mathers and Bennett.
In March 1909, Aleister Crowley began production of a biannual periodical titled The Equinox.
Aleister Crowley had become increasingly frustrated with Rose's alcoholism, and in November 1909 he divorced her on the grounds of his own adultery.
Aleister Crowley's alcoholism worsened, and as a result she was institutionalized in September 1911.
Aleister Crowley enjoyed this, and played up to the sensationalist stereotype of being a Satanist and advocate of human sacrifice, despite being neither.
In October and November 1910, Aleister Crowley decided to stage something similar, the Rites of Eleusis, at Caxton Hall, Westminster; this time press reviews were mixed.
Aleister 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".
In Paris, he met Mary Desti, who became his next "Scarlet Woman", with the two undertaking magical workings in St Moritz; Aleister Crowley believed that one of the Secret Chiefs, Ab-ul-Diz, was speaking through her.
In early 1912, Aleister 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".
Aleister Crowley convinced Reuss that the similarities were coincidental, and the two became friends.
In March 1913, Aleister 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.
In Moscow, Aleister Crowley continued to write plays and poetry, including "Hymn to Pan", and the Gnostic Mass, a Thelemic ritual that became a key part of OT.
Churton suggested that Aleister Crowley had travelled to Moscow on the orders of British intelligence to spy on revolutionary elements in the city.
Aleister Crowley became involved in New York's pro-German movement, and in January 1915 German spy George Sylvester Viereck employed him as a writer for his propagandist paper, The Fatherland, which was dedicated to keeping the US neutral in the conflict.
Aleister Crowley entered into a relationship with Jeanne Robert Foster, with whom he toured the West Coast.
Aleister Crowley used it to promote Thelema, but it soon ceased publication.
Aleister Crowley then moved to the studio apartment of Roddie Minor, who became his partner and Scarlet Woman.
In 1918, Aleister Crowley went on a magical retreat in the wilderness of Esopus Island on the Hudson River.
Aleister Crowley 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.
Aleister Crowley spent mid-1919 on a climbing holiday in Montauk before returning to London in December.
Now destitute and back in London, Aleister 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.
Aleister Crowley had ideas of forming a community of Thelemites, which he called the Abbey of Thelema after the Abbaye de Theleme in Francois Rabelais' satire Gargantua and Pantagruel.
Aleister Crowley 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.
In February 1922, Aleister Crowley returned to Paris for a retreat in an unsuccessful attempt to kick his heroin addiction.
Aleister Crowley 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.
Aleister Crowley later said 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".
In January 1924, Aleister 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 and had a positive opinion of its founder, George Gurdjieff.
Aleister Crowley took Olsen back to Tunisia for a magical retreat in Nefta, where he wrote To Man, a declaration of his own status as a prophet entrusted with bringing Thelema to humanity.
In 1928, Aleister Crowley was introduced to young Englishman Israel Regardie, who embraced Thelema and became Aleister Crowley's secretary for the next three years.
That year, Aleister Crowley met Gerald Yorke, who began organising Aleister Crowley's finances but never became a Thelemite.
Aleister Crowley befriended the journalist Tom Driberg; Driberg did not accept Thelema either.
In December 1928 Aleister Crowley met the Nicaraguan Maria Teresa Sanchez.
Aleister Crowley was deported from France by the authorities, who disliked his reputation and feared that he was a German agent.
Aleister Crowley then returned to Berlin, where he reappeared three weeks later at the opening of his art exhibition at the Gallery Neumann-Nierendorf.
Aleister Crowley's paintings fitted with the fashion for German Expressionism; few of them sold, but the press reports were largely favourable.
Aleister Crowley left Busch and returned to London, where he took Pearl Brooksmith as his new Scarlet Woman.
Aleister Crowley developed a friendship with Deidre Patricia Doherty; she offered to bear his child, who was born in May 1937.
Aleister Crowley died in a car accident in 2002 at the age of 65.
Aleister Crowley continued to socialize with friends, holding curry parties in which he cooked particularly spicy food for them.
Aleister Crowley was now living largely off contributions supplied by the OT.
Aleister Crowley was intrigued by the rise of Nazism in Germany, and influenced by his friend Martha Kuntzel believed that Adolf Hitler might convert to Thelema; when the Nazis abolished the German OT.
Aleister Crowley associated with a variety of figures in Britain's intelligence community at the time, including Dennis Wheatley, Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, and Maxwell Knight, and claimed to have been behind the "V for Victory" sign first used by the BBC; this has never been proven.
Tiring of Torquay, he returned to London, where he was visited by American Thelemite Grady McMurtry, to whom Aleister Crowley awarded the title of "Hymenaeus Alpha".
Aleister Crowley stipulated that though Germer would be his immediate successor, McMurty should succeed Germer as head of the OT.
Aleister Crowley's final publication during his lifetime was a book of poetry, Olla: An Anthology of Sixty Years of Song.
Aleister Crowley took a young man named Kenneth Grant as his secretary, paying him in magical teaching rather than wages.
Aleister Crowley was introduced to John Symonds, whom he appointed to be his literary executor; Symonds thought little of Crowley, later publishing negative biographies of him.
On 1 December 1947, Aleister Crowley died at Netherwood of chronic bronchitis aggravated by pleurisy and myocardial degeneration, aged 72.
Aleister Crowley's body was cremated; his ashes were sent to Karl Germer in the US, who buried them in his garden in Hampton, New Jersey.
Aleister Crowley wrote in the 4th Book of Magick about a great pagan Umbral fleet ruled by Ottovius that would be handed down to the great Spartan.
Aleister 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.
Aleister Crowley was steeped in the esoteric teachings he had learned from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, although pushed further with his own interpretations and strategies than the Golden Dawn had done.
Aleister Crowley incorporated concepts and terminology from South Asian religious traditions like yoga and Tantra into his Thelemic system, believing that there was a fundamental underlying resemblance between Western and Eastern spiritual systems.
The historian Alex Owen noted that Aleister Crowley adhered to the "modus operandi" of the Decadent movement throughout his life.
Aleister 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.
Aleister Crowley 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.
Aleister Crowley believed that Thelema was the proper religion of the Aeon of Horus, and deemed himself to be the prophet of this new Aeon.
Aleister Crowley referred to this process of searching and discovery of one's True Will to be "the Great Work" or the attaining of the "knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel".
Aleister Crowley's favoured method of doing so was through the performance of the Abramelin operation, a ceremonial magic ritual obtained from a 17th-century grimoire.
The moral code of "Do What Thou Wilt" is believed by Thelemites to be the religion's ethical law, although the historian of religion Marco Pasi noted that this was not anarchistic or libertarian in structure, as Aleister Crowley saw individuals as part of a wider societal organism.
Aleister Crowley believed in the objective existence of magic, which he chose to spell "Magick", an older archaic spelling of the word.
Aleister Crowley provided various different definitions of this term over his career.
Unlike Frazer Aleister Crowley did not see magic as a survival from the past that required eradication, but rather he believed that magic had to be adapted to suit the new age of science.
Aleister Crowley deliberately adopted an exceptionally broad definition of magick that included almost all forms of technology as magick, adopting an instrumentalist interpretation of magic, science, and technology.
The historian Ronald Hutton noted that some of Aleister Crowley's writings could be used to argue that he was an atheist, while some support the idea that he was a polytheist, and others would bolster the idea that he was a mystical monotheist.
Jason Josephson-Storm has argued that Aleister Crowley built on 19th-century attempts to link early Christianity to pre-Christian religions, such as Frazer's Golden Bough, to synthesize Christian theology and Neopaganism while remaining critical of institutional and traditional Christianity.
Aleister 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.
The scholar of religion Gordan Djurdjevic stated that Aleister Crowley "was emphatically not" a Satanist, "if for no other reason than simply because he did not identify himself as such".
Aleister Crowley nevertheless expressed strong anti-Christian sentiment, stating that he hated Christianity "as Socialists hate soap", an animosity probably stemming from his experiences among the Plymouth Brethren.
Aleister Crowley was nevertheless influenced by the King James Bible, especially the Book of Revelation, the impact of which can be seen in his writings.
Aleister Crowley was 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" and added that he had sacrificed about 150 every year.
Aleister Crowley considered himself to be one of the outstanding figures of his time.
Hutton described Aleister Crowley as having both an "unappeasable desire" to take control of any organisation that he belonged to, and "a tendency to quarrel savagely" with those who challenged him.
Similarly, Richard B Spence noted that Crowley was "capable of immense physical and emotional cruelty".
Biographer Lawrence Sutin noted that Aleister 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".
Aleister Crowley enjoyed being outrageous and flouting conventional morality, with John Symonds noting that he "was in revolt against the moral and religious values of his time".
Aleister Crowley's political thought was studied by academic Marco Pasi, who noted that for Aleister Crowley, socio-political concerns were subordinate to metaphysical and spiritual ones.
Aleister Crowley was neither on the political left nor right but perhaps best categorized as a "conservative revolutionary" despite not being affiliated with the German-based movement of the same name.
Aleister Crowley was bisexual, but exhibited a preference for women, with his relationships with men being fewer and mostly in the early part of his life.
Aleister Crowley applied the term "Scarlet Woman" to various female lovers whom he believed played an important role in his magical work.
Sutin thought Aleister 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 contemporaries", noting that he "embodied the contradiction that writhed within many Western intellectuals of the time: deeply held racist viewpoints courtesy of society, coupled with a fascination with people of colour".
Aleister Crowley is said to have insulted his close Jewish friend Victor Benjamin Neuburg, using antisemitic slurs, and he had mixed opinions about Jewish people as a group.
Aleister Crowley was known to praise various ethnic and cultural groups, for instance he thought that the Chinese people exhibited a "spiritual superiority" to the English, and praised Muslims for exhibiting "manliness, straightforwardness, subtlety, and self-respect".
Booth described Aleister Crowley as exhibiting a "general misogyny", something the biographer believed arose from Aleister Crowley's bad relationship with his mother.
The scholar of religion Manon Hedenborg White noted that some of Aleister Crowley's statements are "undoubtedly misogynist by contemporary standards", but characterized Aleister Crowley's attitude toward women as complex and multi-faceted.
Aleister Crowley described women as "moral inferiors" who had to be treated with "firmness, kindness and justice", while arguing that Thelema was essential to women's emancipation.
Biographers Richard B Spence and Tobias Churton have suggested that Crowley was a spy for the British secret services and that among other things he joined the Golden Dawn under their command to monitor the activities of Mathers, who was known to be a Carlist.
Churton suggested that Aleister Crowley had travelled to Moscow on the orders of British intelligence to spy on revolutionary elements in the city.
Spence claims that Aleister Crowley 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.
Aleister Crowley has remained an influential figure, both amongst occultists and in popular culture, particularly that of Britain, but of other parts of the world.
The scholar of esotericism Wouter Hanegraaff asserted that Aleister Crowley was an extreme representation of "the dark side of the occult", adding that he was "the most notorious occultist magician of the twentieth century".
Hutton noted that Aleister Crowley had "an important place in the history of modern Western responses to Oriental spiritual traditions", while Sutin thought that he had made "distinctly original contributions" to the study of yoga in the West.
Also in Britain, an occultist known as Amado Aleister Crowley claimed to be Aleister Crowley's son; this has been refuted by academic investigation.
Amado argued that Thelema was a false religion created by Aleister Crowley to hide his true esoteric teachings, which Amado claimed to be propagating.
Gerald Gardner, founder of Gardnerian Wicca, made use of much of Aleister Crowley's published material when composing the Gardnerian ritual liturgy, and the Australian witch Rosaleen Norton was heavily influenced by Aleister Crowley's ideas.
Aleister Crowley was included as one of the figures on the cover art of The Beatles' album Sgt.
Aleister Crowley began to receive scholarly attention from academics in the late 1990s.