Crowley the Beast…

April 24, 2009


“I am quite sane, quite quite. Sober thought
Is as a woof to my mad dreams. My Brain
Beats to the double stroke; the double strain
Warps its grey fibres; all the dream is wrought
A spider-tapestry; the old blood-stain spreads through the air
Some hot contagious growth to slay men unaware.”

The American writer William Seabrook was walking down Fifth Avenue with Aleister Crowley one afternoon, the two men talking about ritual and power, when Seabrook demanded his companion demonstrate his “power”.

Almost immediately Crowley latched onto a passerby, following him, imitating his way of walking and his posture. Without any prior warning, Crowley fell to the ground on all fours, then just as abruptly leapt to full height. The man they’d been following collapsed to the pavement.

Seabrook was suitable impressed.

So, was Crowley a charlatan, a fraud, or did he really exercise “power” over others? He certainly was possessed of an ego bigger than an Egyptian Temple. He was easily able to dominate other, weaker personalities: his wives for example, and any number of “disciples” who often doubled as sexual partner, both male and female.

“Boys tempt my lips to wanton use,
And show their tongues, and smile awry,
And wonder why I should refuse
Their buttocks o­n the sly,
And kiss their genitals, and cry:
‘Ah! Ganymede, grant me o­ne night!’
This is the o­ne sweet mystery:
A strong man’s love is my delight!”

Crowley was a member of the ‘Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’ in the late eighteen nineties. Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers head of the “Dawn” took Crowley as his disciple but the pair soon fell out. Mathers, according to Crowley, sent a psychic vampire to kill him; Crowley responded with a conjuration of Beelzebub and an army of demons who he dispatched to sort Mathers out. That must have been one hell of a confrontation!

Following these episodes of psychical combat, Crowley became something of a wanderer. He married Rose Edith Kelly and they had a child together. Rose and Crowley, holidaying in Egypt, took part in certain esoteric rituals which provided Aleister with the first three chapters of “The Book Of The Law”.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, Love under Will.”

Crowley having written it, lived the rest of his life by this simple formula. Crowley’s early “fantasies” of a “Scarlet Woman” who would dominate him and indulge in various bizarre sexual practices, were made flesh, as increasingly he involved himself in “sex magic”, drinking bouts, and narcotics; one such woman, Leah Hirsig, a Swiss American, took the name Alostrael, “the womb (or grail) of God”, and helped Crowley found the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu on the Northern coast of Sicily. Here Aleister referred to her as “Ape of Thoth”.

“What really pulled me from the pit was the courage, wisdom, understanding and divine enlightenment of the Ape herself. Over and over again, she smote into my soul that I must understand the way of the gods…We must not look to the dead past, or gamble with the unformed future; we must live wholly in the present, wholly absorbed in the Great Work, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result. Only so could will be pure and perfect.”

Unfortunately one of Crowley’s disciples, a 23-year-old Oxford undergraduate, Raoul Loveday, died on the Island, allegedly after drinking the blood of a cat he’d killed; Crowley was forced to leave Sicily in the ensuing scandal (most of which was rubbish, trumped-up by the dead man’s jealous wife and made much of in the English Tabloid press).

In Sicily, it was alleged, Hirsig copulated with a Billy Goat while Crowley and his disciples looked on. She’d had a child by Crowley, Poupee, who later died. Eventually Crowley broke off their relationship, and presented Hirsig with his newest “Scarlet Woman”, Dorothy Olsen (Soror Astrid).

“O large lips opening outward like a flower
To breathe upon my face that clings to thee!
O wanton breasts that heave deliciously
And tempt my eager teeth! Oh cruel power
Of wide deep thighs that make me furious
As they enclasp me and swing to and fro
With passion that grows pale and drives the flow
Of the fast fragrant blood of both of us
Into the awful link that knits us close
With chain electric! O have mercy yet
In drawing out my life in this desire
To consummate this moment all the gross
Lusts of to-night, and pay the sudden debt
That with strong water shall put out our fire!”

Crowley, having divorced his now alcoholic first wife, married Maria Ferrari de Miramar who in time would be shut away in the Colney Hatch Asylum, quite insane, for twenty years until her death in the 1950’s (it was, it has been suggested a marriage of convenience). Crowley felt:

“Most people, especially Freud, misunderstand the Freudian position. ‘The libido of the unconscious’ is really ‘the true will of the inmost self’. The sexual characteristics of the individual are, it is true, symbolic indications of its nature, and when those are ‘abnormal’, we may suspect that the self is divided against itself in some way. Experience teaches the adepts who initiate mankind that when any complex (duality) in the self is resolved (unity) the initiate becomes whole. The morbid sexual symptoms (which are merely the complaints of the sick animal) disappear, while the moral and mental consciousness is relieved from its civil war of doubt and self-obsession. The complete man, harmonized, flows freely towards his natural goal.”

But such “harmonization” seemed to always elude him. Later in life, bankrupt, addicted to drugs, frail and alone, did he look back with regret or gladness on the course of his life? We’ll never know. Many lies were told about him, and he played the part of the beast for all it was worth, relishing the attention, the envy, the fear and the hatred it engendered. A poet, prophet, mystic, magician, more than anything Crowley was a lover…of women and of men.

“Lips, hair and eyes and mouth: I will not die
But thou come with me o’er the gate of death.
So, blood and body furious with breath
That pants through foaming kisses, let us stay
Gripped hard together to keep life away,
Mouths drowned in murder, never satiate,
Kissing away the hard decrees of Fate,
Kissing insatiable in mad desire
Kisses whose agony may never tire,
Kissing the gates of hell, the sword of God,
Each unto each a serpent or a rod,
A well of wine and fire, each unto each,
Whose lips are fain convulsively to reach
A higher heaven, a deeper hell. Ah! Day”

So what then was Crowley’s life all about? He provided a summary in his own words:

“My mission is, in short, to bring everyone to the realization and enjoyment of his own kingship, and my apparent interference with him amounts to no more than advice to him not to suffer interference.”

This ties in with my earlier post on part of Crowley’s old estate being up for sale.