My thoughts on Crowley
September 20, 2010 § 2 Comments
Aleister Crowley and Thelema, the philosophy (some call it a religion, but that’s a debate I won’t get into now) of which he is the prophet, are two subjects not to be taken lightly – especially when addressing others interested in western occultism. I’ve intended to do a post on Crowley for weeks, after I had started reading his biography. It’s been years since I first came across Crowley (I started trying to read his works my sophomore year of high school, which proved entirely too difficult to accomplish). I have to admit I’m still wrapping my head around the whole thing. The man is ubiquitous, his ideas permeate nearly everything I read on the occult, and everyone seems to have an opinion on him.
I finally decided instead of attempting to summarize his ideas into a neat little post (as I did on Chaos Magick and Hermeticism and so on) I’d do something a bit more subjective. Since most people are familiar with at least the basic concepts of Thelema, I thought I’d bullet out a few and respond with my thoughts.
- Concept: “The Book of the Law” was dictated to Crowley in Cairo by Aiwass, his Holy Guardian Angel
I don’t believe it, personally. I think Crowley was so intent on being inspired and the atmosphere of Cairo was so magical and interesting that his mind created a voice for him to hear. I don’t doubt the validity of what it said, nor do a doubt it was his Holy Guardian Angel, I just don’t believe it was an external, sentient being. I believe what Crowley wrote in the Book of the Law and in his subsequent literature came from a place within himself.
- Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
If this were just a hedonist statement, I’d have to strongly disagree. But I know it isn’t. Crowley defines the True Will as something outside of a person’s personal ego and desires, and a calling to reunite with the Divine. I’m a fan of that idea, I think it’s very motivating and I’ve definitely seen it in action. There have been plenty of times where my personal ego has tried to get in the way of my True Will. It’s definitely a separate thing, and I think to make following that will “the whole law” is a pretty solid rule to live by. I know that if I followed that sort of gut-spiritual-calling as often as I know I should, I’d be a better more enlightened person. On a related matter…
- Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel is essential to knowing your True Will
Can’t really argue with that one, and it’s quite a poetic and romantic way of saying “if you don’t listen to yourself, you won’t do what you’re supposed to”. If I could somehow make my inner Will manifest as an eternal being and talk to it, I’d be *thrilled*. That seems kind of like self-induced multiple personality disorder, but that’s something I’ve considered as a method. Apparently Crowley eventually decided the HGA wasn’t an internal thing, but an independent external being. That I don’t believe, for the same reasons I don’t believe Aiwass was a separate being that spoke to him. With the experiences I’ve had thus far, it just doesn’t seem feasible to me.
- Crowley’s ritual methods/personal philosophy
Let me put it this way: Crowley was more into sex, drugs, homosexuality and indulgence than I am, and that’s saying something. I think he went too far (I’ve heard rumors he made a student of his have sex with a goat. I don’t see the pragmatism in that) and I don’t think a lot of his theatrical extravagance was necessary. Personally I prefer a slightly more safe, less complicated way of going about things.
As far as his ritual methods go, I’m not real into it. That could be because I fear what I don’t understand, and I admittedly have a crappy grasp on the Qabbalah right now. Even taking that into consideration though, there’s an awful lot of steps to what he does, and preparation and diagrams and numerology and what have you. I lean more towards the chaos magick side of things, so I’m way more into sigils and inhibitory/excitatory gnosis and slightly more user-friendly magick than what Crowley does. Whatever works for the individual, though.
- Magick defined as “”the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”
This is by far my favorite thing Crowley has ever said. It is absolutely perfect, I have no criticism of it at all. I’d have to say that’s why I spell “magick” with a “k” – because Crowley did, and his definition of magick is thus far my favorite of everything I’ve come across. Magick is definitely both a Science and an Art – it’s beautiful, but it is also systematic, and evolves with the acquisition of new knowledge, like science. It causes changes – rarely do you try to perform magick if you want things to stay the way they are. Finally, it’s all in conformity with your Will, and of course it is! That’s the whole point. You’re making something happen because you want it to. Magicians make things happen. I love it.
- The Abramelin Operation
Not something I ever plan on doing, sorry folks. I can see the appeal, but a six month-long ritual is beyond the scope of possibility to me. Also, I don’t know that I’d ever be able to conjure enough faith in the validity of the ritual for it to work – after all, belief is what makes magic happen, and I don’t have any actually attachment to the Abramelin Operation. Plus, the origins of it are so distant and unknown (apparently Jewish, from the Book of Abraham, which I don’t know much about) that I’d have trouble relating to it on too many levels. Six months! If anyone reading this has actually succeeded in accomplishing this, I’d love to hear about it, and I’d also love to salute you for such incredible effort. Impressive.
That’s as much as I intend to respond to for now. I know there are countless concepts within Crowley’s writings that I could expound on, but for now this will do. What I actually finish reading the biography (Do What Thou Wilt by Lawrence Sutin) I’ll post about Crowley again. I’m entirely open to people responding with their own interpretations of concepts within Thelema, so please leave a comment!
Ipsa scientia potestas est,