Aleister Crowley, born Edward Alexander Crowley in Warwickshire in 1875, was the self-proclaimed “Wickedest Man in the World” and the “Great Beast 666.” He also considered himself to be the “avatar of the Age of Horus” which was supposedly a 2000-year-old aeon, beginning in 1904, that would supplant Christianity with “Crowlianity.” Crowley had rebelled against a strict religious upbringing and was thus initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1898, after leaving Cambridge University. He left the Order after a row with its founders and then travelled to Mexico, India and Ceylon, where he was introduced to yoga and Buddhism which replaced his interest in the occult until an experience in Cairo in April 1904. Crowley was asked by his wife, Rose, to perform an esoteric ritual as an experiment. During the ceremony, she entered a trance-like state and became the medium for the words of a communicator. “They are waiting for you,” she said to Crowley. “They,” she said, being Horus, the god of war and the son of Osiris, according to the beliefs of ancient Egypt. The communicator told Crowley to be at his desk in his hotel room between noon and one o’clock on three specific days. He agreed and in these periods he wrote, via automatic writing, a document called The Book of the Law. This tome spoke of a race of supermen and condemned the traditional Judeo-Christian religions, pacifism, democracy, compassion and humanitarianism.
Aleister Crowley in his Freemason's attire.
“Let my servants be few and secret: they shall rule the many and the known,” the communicator revealed. The message continued:
“We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit; let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings; stamp down the wretched and the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world. … Love one another with burning hearts; on the low men trample in the fierce lust of your pride, in the day of your wrath. … Pity not the fallen! I never knew them. I am not for them. I console not; I hate the consoled and the consoler. … I am unique and conqueror. I am not of the slaves that perish. Be they damned and dead. Amen. … Therefore strike hard and low, and to hell with them, master. … Lurk! Withdraw! Upon them! This is the law of the Battle of Conquest: thus shall my worship be about my secret house. … Worship me with fire and blood; worship me with swords and with spears. Let the woman be girl with a sword before me: let blood flow in my name. Trample down the heathen; be upon them, O warrior, I will give you their flesh to eat. … Sacrifice cattle, little and big; after a child … kill and torture; spare not; be upon them!”
The same communicator confirmed that Crowley was the “Beast 666” who had come to destroy Christianity, something his mother had told him earlier in his life. Crowley apparently tried to ignore what he had written with his guided hand, but it would not go away, and from 1909 on he began to take it very seriously. He said:
“After five years of folly and weakness, miscalled politeness, tact, discretion, care for the feeling of others, I am weary of it. I say today: to hell with Christianity, Rationalism, Buddhism, all the lumber of the centuries. I bring you a positive and primeval fact, Magic by name; and with this I will build me a new Heaven and new Earth. I want none of your faint approval or faint dispraise; I want blasphemy, murder, rape, revolution, anything, bad or good, but strong.”
In 1898 Crowley had joined the Order of the Golden Dawn where he made the acquaintance of his temporary mentor, MacGregor Mathers, leader of the occult group. Taking on the name of Brother Perdurabo (“I will endure”) and beginning his experiments with drugs, Crowley’s voracious bisexuality and his interests in the darker forces gave him a sinister reputation. He was very much a figure of decadence who loathed Christianity. The Golden Dawn taught a form of magic that was derived from the Kaballah and Rosicrucianism. There are also certainly similarities to Freemasonry and Theosophy. However, the magic espoused by the Order of the Golden Dawn soon proved to be insufficient for Aleister Crowley who was convinced that more potent magic could be harnessed through sex and drugs.
Crowley left his former tutor, MacGregor Mathers, a broken man as he embarked on a psychic war against him. They both conjured up demons to attack the other. The violent eruption concluded with Crowley claiming that Mathers was killed in a magical duel by a vampire he had conjured up. The would-be usurper proved to be too perverted and bizarre for the Order and was cast out. He formulated his own ideas, seeking aid from what he termed the Secret Chiefs (supposedly divine beings with supernatural intellects). The revelation that came to him in Cairo was via a demon named Aiwaz.
Crowley welcomed the First World War as necessary to sweep away the old age and usher in the new one. After going public with his revelations, he was made head of the German-based Ordo Templi Orientis that he had joined in 1912. The OTO emphasis on sexual magic was precisely what Crowley had been searching for. He founded his cult of Thelema in Sicily in 1920, but was expelled in 1923 amid accusations of, among other things, blood drinking, drug taking, and child sacrifice. He is known to have favoured the German war effort during the Second World War and, whilst abroad, once notoriously wrote in The Fatherland: “The sovereignty of England must be destroyed once and for all. England must be divided between the Continental Powers. She must be a mere province, or better still, colony of her neighbours, France and Germany.”
The major axioms of Satanism as it would later develop in the 1960s were contained in Liber Legis, or The Book of the Law. The credo of the book was summed up in the now infamous phrase “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Crowley’s next important literary contribution was The Equinox (1909). Many of the ideas contained in this latter work became the basis for modern Satanism. Weighing 3.5 lb per volume, these were the journals of his newly formed Order of the Silver Star aka Argenteum Astrum. In 1929 came Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice. His American publishers, Dover, made a selling point of the claim that the book contains Crowley’s admission that he himself carried out ritual killings of children, a point not lost on a certain Henry Bibby at the end of the century. Having recommended to his readers the choice of “a male child of perfect intelligence,” Crowley later acknowledges that some of his acolytes might be squeamish when it comes to ritual sacrifice and offers the following conscience clause: “Those magicians who object to the use of blood have endeavoured to replace it with incense … But the bloody sacrifice, though more dangerous, is more efficacious; and for nearly all purposes human sacrifice is best.” Crowley offered no comforting disclaimers. He described his opus as a course of training to help people from all walks of life “fulfill themselves perfectly.” And he promises that “the student will discover … a practical method of making himself a magician.”
Within the same work, Crowley makes reference to unspecified progressive forms of blood sacrifice and he advocates self-mutilation, the offering of blood and virginity, and animal sacrifice by crucifixion. Crowley notoriously baptised a frog and called it “Jesus Christ” and then crucified it. This was in 1916, while living in New Hampshire, USA, during his induction ceremony to raise himself to the rank of magus.
The remainder of Crowley’s life is a long legacy of perversion and evil. He believed that degrading sexual practice and drug use destroyed the consciousness of any sense of morality. This in turn enabled the consciousness, deprived of any sense of “ought” or “law,” to come under the influence of powerful supernatural beings.
Former Labour prospective politician and National Children’s Home employee, David Hallam, commenting of Crowley’s opus, said: “People who are inadequate might pick up something like Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice and believe that they can control peoples’ lives by using magic, believing that if they do this to a child, they will have power. I cannot understand why anybody would want to publish a book advocating the ritual slaughtering of children. No doubt there’s a massive market for occult material. But publishers must remember that these are often handbooks. People are picking them up for a purpose.”
Jerry Johnston in The Edge of Evil (after the Enyclopedia of Occultism and Parasychology) has it that Crowley’s own son died a ritual death.
All but forgotten at the time of his death as a poverty-stricken heroin addict in a run-down Hastings boarding house in 1947, Crowley was rediscovered two decades later by drug-crazed hippies and also popularised by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin who bought Boleskine House, near Inverness, where Crowley attempted to invoke Aiwaz. John Symonds, Crowley’s biographer, recalled that “he merely attracted a host of evil spirits.” Richard Cavendish observed in A History of Magic that “though he was an almost forgotten man at his death, interest in Crowley has revived and he has more followers now than in his lifetime.”