Aleistair Crowley – Founding Father or Drugged out Loon?
Aleistair Crowley is considered by many to be one of the main founding fathers for the current neo-Pagan movement. He was born in England, in 1875 under the name Edward Alexander Crowley and later in life became known under the names Aleistair, The Great Beast, and Frater Perdurabo. He was a radical for his time and believed that the year 1904 would be the beginning of a great change for humanity; where the religious and ethical systems of old would fall.
Early in life he lost his father and this is where his life took a turn. Both of his parents were devout in a small Christian sect and after his father’s death Crowley started to revolt against their faith. His mother coined the nickname, “The Beast”, and he was kicked out of several prominent Christian schools for trying to corrupt other children, pointing out inconsistencies in the Bible, and visiting with prostitutes.
He left Cambridge several years before graduation to dedicate his life to the occult. It was in 1896 that he had his first mystical experience where he felt that he was visited by an immanent deity. This forever changes his perspective in life and his relation to the world. His interest in alchemy is what brought him to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn where he later became a prominent leader. Because of the wealth left to him at his father’s death Aleistair was able to purchase a lavish flat in London where he practiced both white and black magicks.
For many years Crowley traveled all over the world seeing spiritual enlightenment. He experimented with mind altering drugs, slept with many women and men, he climbed mountains, practiced yoga, learned about the Hindu faith, and went back to London where he married Rose Edith Kelly. This was a marriage of convenience, but later developed into a marriage of love and respect.
The couple traveled to Egypt where Crowley discovered the philosophy of Thelema. During this same trip his wife, Rose, began to give Crowley message from the Egyptian God Horus. Later during their visit he began to hear a voice named Aiwass. This voice was believed to be a messenger from Horus. Over the next three days Crowley wrote down everything this voice told him, creating the Book of Law, this book has helped to shape many neo-Pagan groups since its publication.
After several near misses with death Crowley believed that he had been promoted to Exempt Adapt in spiritual practices by the Gods themselves. Since he was the highest level of spiritual adept he wanted to start his own society. After developing several rituals and using hashish he felt that he had finally attained union with godhead. Through this process he founded a new society often referred to as, Silver Star. It was also during this time that he revealed that homosexual sex was the highest form of magic and delved into the practice of sadomasochism.
Crowley coined the phrase, “do what thou wilt”, which is still a commonly used phrase amongst neo-Pagans today. The fact is that Crowley died addicted to heroin at the age of 72. Many of his writings were intentionally changed in order to be more sensational; for example he was known to replace words like ecstasy with words like blood or death. This was done to hide his references to sex magic and to cause a stir which would allow his books to be remembered.
Some say that Aleistair Crowley was a genius and powerful magician. Others say that he was a drug fueled sex addict. Perhaps he was both, but there is no denying that his words and his actions were revolutionary and many still wish to learn from him and following in his bizarre footsteps.