Aleister Crowley is one of the most enigmatic personalities of the modern era. He is a fabled occultist, writer, spy, mountaineer, ceremonial magician and a self acclaimed prophet. However, while he did have a lot of fans and followers, the majority of the world was extremely scared of him. He was called “The Beast” and “The Wickedest Man in the World” at one point of time. However, he was so culturally influential that the BBC went on to call him “one of the 100 most important Britons of the 20th Century”. From art, to music, to films, to even establishing his own set of religious philosophies called Thelema, Aleister Crowley has had a profound impact on the 20th Century. However, of all the stories circulating about Aleister Crowley, about half are made up myths. Was he a purveyor of evil and knew how to summon demons or was he just a rich pervert who worked towards building his image by telling fake stories about himself. As Ozzy Osbourne famously sang Mr. Crowley…what went on your head? Let’s try to find out more about The Great Beast 666.
Aleister Crowley: Myths vs Facts
Was Aleister Crowley a messiah?
During his honeymoon in Cairo, Crowley heard the voice of a messenger from the god Horus who dictated The Book of the Law to him. This work led to the religion founded by Crowley, Thelema. Thelema assumed that the old world order had collapsed and offered guidance in the new age. Crowley was thus running as the spiritual leader of the new order.
In reality, more than a religion, Thelema was a philosophical system. And it did not catch on at the popular level although it had illustrious parishioners such as the pioneer of space engineering Jack Parsons, but his individualistic slogan “doing your will, will be the only complete law” (not in the sense of doing what you want, but of satisfying the mission for which he was born) can be considered as the cornerstone that originated the counterculture in which we still live today. Coincidentally, Aleister Crowley built a Thelemite abbey in Cefalu, an idyllic seaside town on the north coast of Sicily, but he was eventually expelled from it.
Was Aleister Crowley the spiritual guru of The Beatles?
Crowley’s inclusion in that pantheon of the counterculture is the cover of Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band. His image was featured on the top row, second from left. His inclusion alongside icons such as Bob Dylan, Mae West, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Lewis Carroll and Albert Einstein (among numerous others) sparked a debate that he was somehow a spiritual advisor for The Beatles.
In reality, while Crowley didn’t play rock n’ roll, he definitely lived the excessive, spiritual and scandalous life of a rock star. “The only ideology of the Beatles is that you do what you want and that you assume your own responsibility,” John Lennon explained when asked about Crowley’s appearance on the cover. The album opens with the phrase “20 years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.” Sgt. Pepper Lonely Club Band was launched exactly 20 years after Aleister Crowley’s death. Other musicians such as David Bowie (whose last album, Blackstar, contained references to Thelema) or the Rolling Stones have mentioned him in their songs. The Doors appeared alongside a bust of him on the back cover of 13. Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson wrote the screenplay for a horror movie called the Chemical Wedding (released as “Crowley” in the US). The story involved a man who was possessed by the spirit of Crowley. But no rocker was obsessed with him as much as Jimmy Page.
So while Crowley might be a figure that many music artists admired, or were at least intrigued by, he wasn’t really a direct guru to any of them.
Was Aleister Crowley a black magician?
In some of his rituals, Crowley invoked demons that required blood sacrifices. The press took care of the rest: his anti-Christian philosophy (he considered Christianity to be obsolete), the false rumor that he forced his students to have sex with goats and his apology for bisexuality led public opinion to consider him, literally, the Antichrist. He found it so funny that he played with this label, even writing that “an innocent baby is the most satisfactory victim” and that he sacrificed about 150 a year. That was actually a tongue-in-cheek reference to masturbation. When serious, Crowley had a very different take on black magic. “I despise black magic to such an extent that I find it hard to believe that there are people stupid enough to practice it,” said Crowley, the reality apologist for love. However, various satanic cults and dark ceremonies have venerated his work as sacred texts. Hence the perception that Crowley was a Satanist.
Did he set curses upon people?
Aleister Crowley aspired to expand the limits of the human being and verticality was one of his obsessions. During the climb of Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, his team insisted on giving up due to exhaustion but he cursed them and continued on his way alone. An avalanche engulfed his companions, killing almost all of them, while Crowley ignored their screams of agony. Of course, a lot of the story is embellished and Crowley’s presence at the sight of a deadly disaster led to people calling him the cause of that. The 7620 meters Crowley climbed was a world record at the time. During his return he met the survivors of the avalanche already settled, to whom he did not give any help, and stole the money that was left for the expedition. His partner, Jacot-Guillamord, recovered part of that money by blackmailing him into publishing his pornographic literature, whose homosexual stories would have landed him in jail.
Did he cause the curse of Led Zeppelin?
The origin of the rumor. The fanaticism of the leader of Led Zeppelin towards Crowley led him to perform rituals in which all the members of the band participated (except Jon Paul Jones) to achieve unlimited power. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page also bought Crowley’s old house on the shores of the mythical Lochness in Scotland. It was said that his fame came from a pact with the devil and that, apparently, has consequences. Thus was born the legend of the curse of Led Zeppelin: Robert Plant’s three spectacular car accidents, the sudden death of his five-year-old son, the fatal fall down a staircase of the band’s muse Sandy Denny and the end of Led Zeppelin, precipitated by the death of its drummer John Bonham in 1980 after drinking 40 shots of vodka.
When you analyze these incidents independently, some interesting truths are revealed. Crowley’s motto was heard by millions of listeners around the world with the help of the vinyl recordings of “Do Thy Will”. This also generated dozens of ghoulish theories for posterity. Jimmy Page was a collector of Crowley memorabilia: robes, manuscripts, artifacts, and even his home in Scotland. It was said that in that mansion, called Boleskine, Crowley had made a dark invocation that he was reckless to leave halfway. This is how a curse befell him, especially the one who inhabited that house and the entire region, which according to legend gave birth to an evil creature that lives in the lagoon next to the house: Loch Ness. Page sold Boleskine in 1992, but the residence burned without confirmed cause in 2016.
Was Aleister Crowley Barbara Bush’s father?
The origin of the rumor. Aleister Crowley and Pauline Pierce, Barbara Bush’s mother, belonged to the same social circle. The conspiracy theory did the rest.
In reality, Crowley ran sex and drug sessions (what today is called chemsex) to achieve lucidity, urban legend claims that Pauline Pierce had relationships with him, became pregnant and their daughter ended up in the White House. In this way, Aleister Crowley contributed his seed to the evolution of world history. But no need to resort to theories: his apology for extreme individualism and hedonism and his attacks against religious dogmas and socio-political authorities, embraced by the true messiahs of the 20th century (rock stars), are the basis of today’s culture. In the end Crowley did change the world, but not as he intended.
One of the most widespread rumors about Alesteir Crowley says that it could be her father. But there is no basis for that. Just like every rumour, the spicier it is, the faster it spreads.
Was Aleister Crowley a spy?
It is speculated that Ian Fleming, future author of the James Bond novels who worked in naval intelligence, sent Crowley to collaborate with the Nazis to give them false information and that among his successes was the arrest of Nazi leader Rudolph Hess. Other theories claim that he was a Nazi counter spy and that his mountain expeditions were actually missions suggested by the Germans to gather information.
In reality, the only thing that is confirmed is that Crowley created the symbol of the V as a magical counterattack to the supernatural power of the Nazi swastika and that Britain was so desperate that Churchill adopted it as a sign of victory every time he appeared in public, just in case. Magic worked. When Crowley died, in his pockets they only found an old letter from the director of naval intelligence requesting a meeting with him: before his end, this was his most prized possession.
Was Aleister Crowley addicted to drugs?
The origin of the rumor. Crowley ended his rites with a bacchanalia of sex and drugs, which he considered to be the only way to a new dimension of consciousness.
In reality, he was just living the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll lifestyle before rock n’ roll was invented. He was one of the first to experiment with mescaline to expand his perception of the world. He also used hashish, cocaine, ether and peyote (he was the one who introduced Aldous Huxley to the use of the latter). His only addiction, however, was heroin: it was prescribed for asthma (a common remedy at the beginning of the 20th century) and he lived his entire life hooked on it.
Was Aleister Crowley responsible for the birth of hippie culture?
The flower power movement took Crowley’s motto of “do your will” literally. “Do whatever the hell you want without caring for the consequences” is how the hippies lived their lives and Crowley was one of the spiritual referents of the movement. In reality, Aleister Crowley was just one of the first modern Western thinkers to import Eastern philosophies, which is considered the germ of the New Age movement. He fused Buddhist mysticism with Christianity, practiced yoga, and sublimated his life experience with hallucinogens. In 1920, Crowley carried out a social experiment by building a Thelemitic abbey in Sicily with his two wives and several children. The community tilled the land, hunted, meditated under the precepts of The Book of the Law and he was indulging in a utopia of sex, drugs and communion with nature. They also wore robes and dyed their hair in lurid colors. It is considered the first hippie commune. When one of its members died (probably intoxicated by water) the press concluded that it was a human sacrifice and Mussolini expelled Crowley from Italy forever for committing “acts of extreme depravity.”
So those were some of the myths and stories surrounding The Great Beast 666, Aleister Crowley. He lived a very different life from most people and managed to influence many people through his works (for better or for worse). Aleister Crowley will forever be an enigmatic character in human history and as time goes on, generations will echo Ozzy Osbourne’s sentiments as he sang the last verse of the song “Mr. Crowley”:
Was it polemically sent?
I wanna know what you meant
I wanna know
I wanna know what you meant, yeah!