Crowley was also a chess player, painter, astrologer, hedonist, bisexual, drug experimenter, and social critic.
He's quiet lived a larger-than-life life, seriously.
Early Years + University
Edward Alexander Crowley was born at 30 Clarendon Square in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England, between 11:00pm and midnight on October 12, 1875.
His father, Edward Crowley, was trained as an engineer but, according to Aleister, never worked as one. He did, however, own shares in a lucrative family brewery business, which allowed him to retire before Aleister was born. Through his father's business he was an acquaintance of Aubrey Beardsley. His mother, Emily Bertha Bishop, drew roots from a Devon and Somerset family. Both of his parents were Exclusive Brethren, a more conservative faction of the Plymouth Brethren.
Crowley grew up in a staunch Brethren household and was only allowed to play with children whose families followed the same faith. His father was a preacher, travelling around Britain and producing pamphlets. Daily Bible studies and private tutoring were mainstays in "Alick's" childhood.
On February 29, 1880, a sister, Grace Mary Elizabeth, was born but lived only five hours. Crowley was taken to see the body and in his own words (in the third person):
The incident made a curious impression on him. He did not see why he should be disturbed so uselessly. He couldn't do any good; the child was dead; it was none of his business. This attitude continued through his life. He has never attended any funeral but that of his father, which he did not mind doing, as he felt himself to be the real centre of interest.On March 5, 1887, his father died of tongue cancer. This was a turning point in Crowley's life, after which he then began to describe his childhood in the first person in his Confessions.
After the death of his father to whom he was close, he drifted from his religious upbringing. His mother's efforts to keep her son in the Christian faith only served to provoke his scepticism. When a child, his rebellious behaviour displeased his mother to such an extent that she would chastise him by calling him "The Beast" (from the Book of Revelation), an epithet that Crowley would later adopt for himself. He objected to the labelling of what he saw as life's most worthwhile and enjoyable activities as "sinful".
In 1895, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, after studying at the public schools Malvern College, Eastbourne College and Tonbridge School. He originally had the intention of reading Moral Sciences (philosophy), but with approval from his personal tutor, he switched to English literature, which was not then a part of the curriculum offered. His three years at Cambridge were happy ones, due in part to coming into the considerable fortune left by his father.
Here he finally broke with the Church of England, internally if not externally:
The Church of England [...] had seemed a narrow tyranny, as detestable as that of the Plymouth Brethren; less logical and more hypocritical. When I discovered that chapel was compulsory I immediately struck back. The junior dean halled me for not attending chapel, which I was certainly not going to do, because it involved early rising. I excused myself on the ground that I had been brought up among the Plymouth Brethren. The dean asked me to come and see him occasionally and discuss the matter, and I had the astonishing impudence to write to him that 'The seed planted by my father, watered by my mother's tears, would prove too hardy a growth to be uprooted even by his eloquence and learningIn December 1896, following an event that he describes in veiled terms, Crowley decided to pursue a path in occultism and mysticism. By the next year, he began reading books by alchemists and mystics, and books on magic. Biographer Lawrence Sutin describes the pivotal New Year's event as a homo-erotic experience (Crowley's first) that brought him what he considered "an encounter with an immanent deity." During the year of 1897, Aleister further came to see worldly pursuits as useless. In October a brief illness triggered considerations of mortality and "the futility of all human endeavour," or at least the futility of the diplomatic career that Crowley had previously considered.
A year later, he published his first book of poetry (Aceldama), and left Cambridge, only to meet Julian L. Baker (Frater D.A.) who introduced him to Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Throughout the period of 1895, he allegedly maintained a vigorous sex life, which was largely conducted with prostitutes and girls he picked up at local pubs and cigar shops, but eventually he took part in same-sex activities in which he played a passive role. During the course of his life, Crowley practised sexual magic rituals with both men and women. Sutin recounts Crowley's relationship with, and lasting feelings for, Herbert Charles Pollitt, whom he met while at Cambridge in 1897. Pollitt did not share his partner's mystical leanings, and Crowley had this to say about ending their relationship:
I told him frankly that I had given my life to religion and that he did not fit into the scheme. I see now how imbecile I was, how hideously wrong and weak it is to reject any part of one's personality.He would have made any public expressions of "distaste" at a time when British law officially forbade homosexuality. The arrest, conviction and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde took place in Crowley's first year at Cambridge. In the autobiographical preface to Crowley's drama The World's Tragedy, he included two pages on "Sodomy" where he openly admitted his bisexuality and praised sex between men. However, the section was removed from all copies of the book except those given to close friends.
Later, in a January 1929 letter, he wrote:
There have been about four men in my life that I could say I have loved... Call me a bugger if you like, but I don't feel the same way about women. One can always replace a woman in a few days.While that claim about women conflicts with other statements and actions of Crowley's, it accurately describes his relationships with Pollitt and various working class women during his college years.
Crowley described his decision to change his name as follows:
"For many years I had loathed being called Alick, partly because of the unpleasant sound and sight of the word, partly because it was the name by which my mother called me. Edward did not seem to suit me and the diminutives Ted or Ned were even less appropriate. Alexander was too long and Sandy suggested tow hair and freckles. I had read in some book or other that the most favourable name for becoming famous was one consisting of a dactyl followed by a spondee, as at the end of a hexameter: like "Jeremy Taylor". Aleister Crowley fulfilled these conditions and Aleister is the Gaelic form of Alexander. To adopt it would satisfy my romantic ideals. The atrocious spelling A-L-E-I-S-T-E-R was suggested as the correct form by Cousin Gregor, who ought to have known better. In any case, A-L-A-I-S-D-A-I-R makes a very bad dactyl. For these reasons I saddled myself with my present nom-de-guerre—I can't say that I feel sure that I facilitated the process of becoming famous. I should doubtless have done so, whatever name I had chosen."The Golden Dawn
Involved as a young adult in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he first studied mysticism with and made enemies of William Butler Yeats and Arthur Edward Waite. As in many occult circles of the time, Crowley voiced the view that Waite was a pretentious bore through searing critiques of Waite's writings and editorials of other authors' writings. In his periodical The Equinox, Crowley titled one diatribe, "Wisdom While You Waite", and his note on the passing of Waite bore the title, "Dead Waite".
His friend and former Golden Dawn associate, Allan Bennett, introduced him to Buddhism, while Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, acting leader of the Golden Dawn organization, acted as his early mentor in western magic but would later become his enemy. Several decades after Crowley's participation in the Golden Dawn, Mathers claimed copyright protection over a particular ritual and sued Crowley for infringement after Crowley's public display of the ritual. Both also developed and carried complex Seal of Solomon amulets and talismans.
In 1899, Crowley acquired Boleskine House, in Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness in Scotland.
In a book of fiction, titled Moonchild, Crowley later portrayed Mathers as the primary villain, including him as a character named SRMD, using the abbreviation of Mathers' magical name. Arthur Edward Waite also appeared in Moonchild as a villain named Arthwaite, while Bennett appeared as the silent, monkish Mahathera Phang.
While he did not break with Mathers until 1904, Crowley lost faith in this teacher's abilities soon after the 1900 schism in the Golden Dawn (if not before). Later in the year of that schism, Crowley travelled to Mexico and continued his magical studies in isolation. Crowley's writings suggest that he discovered the word Abrahadabra during this time.
In October 1901, after practicing Raja Yoga for some time, he said he had reached a state he called dhyana—one of many states of unification in thoughts that are described in Magick (Liber ABA). 1902 saw him writing the essay Berashith (the first word of Genesis), in which he gave meditation (or restraint of the mind to a single object) as the means of attaining his goal. The essay describes ceremonial magick as a means of training the will, and of constantly directing one's thoughts to a given object through ritual. In his 1903 essay, Science and Matter, Crowley urged an empirical approach to Buddhist teachings.
In 1903 he married Rose Edith Kelly.
1904 and after
Crowley had a revelatory experience in 1904, while on holiday in Cairo, Egypt,which led to his founding of the Magickal philosophy known as Thelema. Aleister's wife Rose started to behave in an odd way, and this started to lead Aleister to believe that an entity had made contact with her. At her instructions, he performed an invocation of the Egyptian God Horus on March 20 with (he wrote) "great success." According to Crowley, the God told him that a new Aeon for mankind had begun, and that Crowley would serve as its prophet. Rose continued to give information, telling Crowley in detailed terms to await a further revelation. On 8 April and for the following two days at exactly noon he heard a voice, dictating the words of the text, Liber AL vel Legis, or The Book of the Law, which Crowley wrote down. The voice claimed to be that of Aiwass (or Aiwaz) "the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat", or Horus, the god of air, child of Isis and Osiris and The Crowned and Conquering Child of the New Aeon, which was to be announced through his chosen scribe "the prince-priest the Beast".
Portions of the book are in numerical cipher, which Crowley claimed an inability to decode. Thelema explains this by pointing to a warning within the Book of the Law — the speaker supposedly warned that the scribe, Ankh-af-na-khonsu (Aleister Crowley), was never to attempt to decode the ciphers, for to do so would end only in folly. The later-written The Law is For All sees Crowley warning everyone not to discuss the writing amongst fellow critics, for fear that the Revelation would become just another dogmatic religion like Christianity, or Islam. While he declared a "new Equinox of the Gods" in early 1904, supposedly passing on the revelation of March 20 to the then small elite Magickal community, it took about five years for Crowley to fully accept the writing of the Book of the Law and follow its doctrine. Only after countless attempts to test its writings did he come to embrace them as the official doctrine of the New Aeon of Horus. The remainder of his professional and personal careers were spent expanding the new frontiers of scientific illuminism.
Rose and Aleister had a daughter, whom Crowley named Nicole Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith Crowley, in July 1904. This child died in 1906, during the two and a half months when Crowley had left her with Rose (after a family trip through China). They had another daughter, Lola Zaza, in the summer of that year, and Crowley devised a special ritual of thanksgiving for her birth.
He performed a thanksgiving ritual before his first claimed success in what he called the "Abramelin operation", on 9 October 1906. This was his implementation of a magical work described in The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. The events of that year gave the Abramelin book a central role in Crowley's system. He described the primary goal of the "Great Work" using a term from this book: "the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel". An essay in the first number of The Equinox gives several reasons for this choice of names:
1. Because Abramelin's system is so simple and effective.Crowley was notorious in his lifetime — a frequent target of attacks in the tabloid press, which labelled him "The Wickedest Man in the World" to his evident amusement. At one point, he was expelled from Italy after having established a commune, the organization of which was based on his personal philosophies, the Abbey of Thelema, at Cefalù, Sicily.
2. Because since all theories of the universe are absurd it is better to talk in the language of one which is patently absurd, so as to mortify the metaphysical man.
3. Because a child can understand it.
Aleister and Rose were divorced in 1909.
A∴A∴ and Ordo Templi Orientis
In 1907, Crowley's interest took off again, with two events. The first was the creation of a new magical Order called A∴A∴, and the second was the composition of the Holy Books of Thelema.
In 1910, Crowley performed with members of the A∴A∴ his series of dramatic rites, the Rites of Eleusis.
According to Crowley, in 1912, Theodor Reuss had called on him to address accusations of publishing O.T.O. secrets, which Crowley dismissed, for having never attained the grade in which these secrets were given (IXth Degree). Reuss opened up The Book of Lies and showed Crowley the passage. This sparked a long conversation which led to Crowley assuming the Xth Degree of O.T.O. and becoming Grand Master of the British section of O.T.O. called Mysteria Mystica Maxima.
Spying in America, 1914–1918
Richard B. Spence writes in his 2008 book Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult that Crowley could have been a lifelong agent for British Intelligence. While this may have already been the case during his many travels to Tsarist Russia, Switzerland, Asia, Mexico and North Africa that had started in his student days, he could have been involved with this line of work during his life in America during the First World War, under a cover of being a German propaganda agent and a supporter of Irish independence. Crowley's mission might have been to gather information about the German intelligence network, the Irish independent activists and produce aberrant propaganda, aiming at compromising the German and Irish ideals. As an agent provocateur he could have played some role in provoking the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, thereby bringing the United States closer to active involvement in the war alongside the Allies. He also used German magazines The Fatherland and The International as outlets for his other writings. The question of whether Crowley was a spy has always been subject to debate, but Spence uncovered a document from the US Army's old Military Intelligence Division supporting Crowley's own claim to have been a spy:
During his time in the U.S., Crowley practiced the task of a Magister Templi in the A∴A∴ as he conceived it, namely interpreting every phenomenon as a particular dealing of "God" with his soul. He began to see various women he met as officers in his ongoing initiation, associating them with priests wearing animal masks in Egyptian ritual. A meditation during his relationship with one such woman (Jeanne Robert Foster) led him to claim the title of Magus, also referring to the system of the A∴A∴.
Aleister Crowley was an employee of the British Government...in this country on official business of which the British Consul, New York City has full cognizance.
Two periods of magical experimentation followed. In June 1916, he began the first of these at the New Hampshire cottage of Evangeline Adams, having ghost written most of her two books on astrology. His diaries at first show discontent at the gap between his view of the grade of Magus and his view of himself: "It is no good making up my mind to do anything material; for I have no means. But this would vanish if I could make up my mind." Despite his objections to sacrificing a living animal, he resolved to crucify a frog as part of a rehearsal of the life of Jesus in the Gospels (afterward declaring it his willing familiar), "with the idea...that some supreme violation of all the laws of my being would break down my Karma or dissolve the spell that seems to bind me." Slightly more than a month later, having taken ether (ethyl oxide), he had a vision of the universe from modern scientific cosmology that he frequently referred to in later writings.
Crowley began another period of magical work on an island in the Hudson River after buying large amounts of red paint instead of food. Having painted "Do what thou wilt" on the cliffs at both sides of the island, he received gifts from curious visitors. Here at the island he had visions of seeming past lives, though he refused to endorse any theory of what they meant beyond linking them to his unconscious. Towards the end of his stay, he had a shocking experience he linked to "the Chinese wisdom" which made even Thelema appear insignificant. Nevertheless, he continued in his work. Before leaving the country he formed a sexual and magical relationship with Leah Hirsig, whom he met earlier, and with her help began painting canvases with more creativity and passion.
Abbey of Thelema
Crowley, along with Leah Hirsig, founded the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalù (Palermo), Sicily in 1920. The name was borrowed from Rabelais's satire Gargantua, where the "Abbey of Theleme" is described as a sort of anti-monastery where the lives of the inhabitants were "spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure." This idealistic utopia was to be the model of Crowley's commune, while also being a type of magical school, giving it the designation "Collegium ad Spiritum Sanctum," The College of the Holy Spirit. The general programme was in line with the A∴A∴ course of training, and included daily adorations to the Sun, a study of Crowley's writings, regular yogic and ritual practices (which were to be recorded), as well as general domestic labour. The object, naturally, was for students to devote themselves to the Great Work of discovering and manifesting their True Wills. Mussolini's Fascist government expelled Crowley from the country at the end of April 1923.
After the Abbey
In February 1924, Crowley visited Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. He did not meet the founder on that occasion, but called Gurdjieff a "tip-top man" in his diary. Crowley privately criticized some of the Institute's practices and teachings, but doubted that what he heard from disciple Pindar reflected the master's true position. Some claim that on a later visit he met Gurdjieff—who firmly repudiated Crowley. Biographer Sutin expresses skepticism, and Gurdjieff's student C.S. Nott tells a different version. Nott perceives Crowley as a black or at least ignorant magician and says his teacher "kept a sharp watch" on the visitor, but mentions no open confrontation.
On August 16, 1929 Crowley married Maria de Miramar, from Nicaragua, while in Leipzig. They separated by 1930, but they were never divorced.
In September, 1930 Crowley visited Lisbon and with the assistance of Fernando Pessoa faked his death at the notorious rock formation, Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell). In fact Crowley left the country and enjoyed the newspaper reports of his death - reappearing three weeks later at an exhibition in Berlin.
In 1934, Crowley was declared bankrupt after losing a court case in which he sued the artist Nina Hamnett for calling him a black magician in her 1932 book, Laughing Torso. In addressing the jury, Mr. Justice Swift said:
However, Patricia "Deirdre" MacAlpine approached Crowley on the day of the verdict and offered to bear him a child, whom he named Aleister Atatürk. She sought no mystical or religious role in Crowley's life and rarely saw him after the birth, "an arrangement that suited them both."
I have been over forty years engaged in the administration of the law in one capacity or another. I thought that I knew of every conceivable form of wickedness. I thought that everything which was vicious and bad had been produced at one time or another before me. I have learnt in this case that we can always learn something more if we live long enough. I have never heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous and abominable stuff as that which has been produced by the man (Crowley) who describes himself to you as the greatest living poet.—Mr. Justice Swift
During World War II, Ian Fleming and others proposed a disinformation plot in which Crowley would have helped an MI5 agent supply Nazi official Rudolf Hess with faked horoscopes. They could then pass along false information about an alleged pro-German circle in Britain. The government abandoned this plan when Hess flew to Scotland, crashing his plane on the moors near Eaglesham, and was captured. Fleming then suggested using Crowley as an interrogator to determine the influence of astrology on other Nazi leaders, but his superiors rejected this plan. At some point, Fleming also suggested that Britain could use Enochian as a code in order to plant evidence.
Crowley died at Netherwood, a Hastings boarding house on 1 December 1947 at the age of 72. According to one biographer the cause of death was a respiratory infection. He had become addicted to heroin after being prescribed morphine for his asthma and bronchitis many years earlier. He and his last doctor died within 24 hours of each other; newspapers would claim, in differing accounts, that Dr. Thomson had refused to continue his opiate prescription and that Crowley had put a curse on him.
Biographer Lawrence Sutin passes on various stories about Crowley's death and last words. Frieda Harris supposedly reported him saying, "I am perplexed," though she did not see him at the very end. According to John Symonds, a Mr. Rowe witnessed Crowley's death along with a nurse, and reported his last words as "Sometimes I hate myself." Biographer Gerald Suster accepted the version of events he received from a "Mr W.H." who worked at the house, in which Crowley dies pacing in his living room. Supposedly Mr W.H. heard a crash while polishing furniture on the floor below, and entered Crowley's rooms to find him dead on the floor. Patricia "Deirdre" MacAlpine, who visited Crowley with their son and her three other children, denied all this and reports a sudden gust of wind and peal of thunder at the (otherwise quiet) moment of his death. According to MacAlpine, Crowley remained bedridden for the last few days of his life, but was in light spirits and conversational. Readings at the cremation service in nearby Brighton included one of his own works, Hymn to Pan, and newspapers referred to the service as a black mass. Brighton council subsequently resolved to take all the necessary steps to prevent such an incident from occurring again.
Science, magic, and sexuality
Crowley claimed to use a scientific method to study what people at the time called spiritual experiences, making "The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion" the catchphrase of his magazine The Equinox. By this he meant that religious experiences should not be taken at face value, but critiqued and experimented with in order to arrive at their underlying mystical or neurological meaning.
In this connection there was also the point that I was anxious to prove that spiritual progress did not depend on religious or moral codes, but was like any other science. Magick would yield its secrets to the infidel and the libertine, just as one does not have to be a churchwarden in order to discover a new kind of orchid. There are, of course, certain virtues necessary to the Magician; but they are of the same order as those which make a successful chemist.
Crowley's magical and initiatory system has amongst its innermost reaches a set of teachings on sex magick. He frequently expressed views about sex that were radical for his time, and published numerous poems and tracts combining pagan religious themes with sexual imagery both heterosexual and homosexual, as well as pederastic. One of his most notorious poetry collections, titled8 "White Stains" (1898), was published in Amsterdam in 1898 and dealt specifically with sexually explicit subject matter. However, most of the hundred copies printed for the initial release were later seized and destroyed by British customs.
Sex magick is the use of the sex act — or the energies, passions or arousal states it evokes — as a point upon which to focus the will or magical desire for effects in the non-sexual world. In the view of Allen Greenfield, Crowley was inspired by Paschal Beverly Randolph, an American Abolitionist, Spiritualist medium, and author of the mid-19th century who wrote (in Eulis!, 1874) of using the "nuptive moment" (orgasm) as the time to make a "prayer" for events to occur.
Crowley often introduced new terminology for spiritual and magickal practices and theory. For example, he termed theurgy "high magick" and thaumaturgy "low magick." In The Book of the Law and The Vision and the Voice, the Aramaic magickal formula Abracadabra was changed to Abrahadabra, which he called the new formula of the Aeon. He also famously spelled magic in the archaic manner, as magick, to differentiate "the true science of the Magi from all its counterfeits."
He urged his students to learn to control their own mental and behavioural habits, to the point of switching political views and personalities at will. For control of speech (symbolised as the unicorn) he recommended to choose a commonly-used word, letter, or pronouns and adjectives of the first person, and avoid using it for a week or more. Should they say the word he instructed them to cut themselves with a blade on each occasion to serve as warning or reminder. Later the student could move on to the "Horse" of action and the "Ox" of thought. (These symbols derive from the cabala of Crowley's book 777.) In this respect Crowley has been a strong influence on post-modern Chaos Magic with the concept of the different Selves, and the idea, and practice, of Belief Shifting. Crowley has also been labeled by some anthropologists as a practitioner of neoshamanism and revivalist of shamanistic philosophies in the early 20th century.
Author and Crowley expert Lon Milo Duquette wrote in his 1993 work The Magick of Aleister Crowley that:
In this vein many of Crowley's more audacious and outright shocking writings were often thinly veiled attempts to communicate methods of sexual magick, often using words like "blood", "death" and "kill" to replace "semen", "ecstacy" and "ejaculation" in the yet puritanical sexual environment of late 19th/early 20th century England. Take for instance the highly repeated quote from his thickly veiled Book Four: "It would be unwise to condemn as irrational the practice of devouring the heart and liver of an adversary while yet warm. For the highest spiritual working one must choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force; a male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory." Robert Anton Wilson in The Final Secret of the Illuminati (aka Cosmic Trigger Volume One) interpreted the child as a reference to genes in sperm. Crowley added in a footnote to the text on sacrifice, "the intelligence and innocence of that male child are the perfect understanding of the Magician, his one aim, without lust of result."
"Crowley clothed many of his teachings in the thin veil of sensational titillation. By doing so he assured himself that one, his works would only be appreciated by the few individuals capable of doing so, and two, his works would continue to generate interest and be published by and for the benefit of both his admirers and his enemies long after death. He did not — I repeat not — perform or advocate human sacrifice. He was often guilty, however, of the crime of poor judgment. Like all of us, Crowley had many flaws and shortcomings. The greatest of those, in my opinion, was his inability to understand that everyone else in the world was not as educated and clever as he. It is clear, even in his earliest works, he often took fiendish delight in terrifying those who were either too lazy, too bigoted, or too slow-witted to understand him."
In the "New Comment" to the Book of the Law, "the Beast 666 adviseth that all children shall be accustomed from infancy to witness every type of sexual act, as also the process of birth, lest falsehood fog, and mystery stupefy, their minds... Politeness has forbidden any direct reference to the subject of sex to secure no happier result than to allow Sigmund Freud and others to prove that our every thought, speech, and gesture, conscious or unconscious, is an indirect reference!"
Crowley was a habitual drug user and also maintained a meticulous record of his drug-induced experiences with laudanum, opium, cocaine, hashish, marijuana, alcohol, ether, mescaline and heroin. Allan Bennett, Crowley's mentor, was said to have "instructed Crowley in the magical use of drugs." The Cairo revelation from Aiwass/Aiwaz specifically recommended indulgence in "strange drugs". While in Paris during the 1920s, Crowley experimented with psychedelic substances, specifically Anhalonium lewinii, an obsolete scientific name for the mescaline-bearing cactus peyote. In October 1930, Crowley dined with Aldous Huxley in Berlin, and to this day rumours persist that he introduced Huxley to peyote on that occasion.
Crowley developed a drug addiction after a London doctor prescribed heroin for his asthma and bronchitis. His life as an addict influenced his 1922 novel, Diary of a Drug Fiend, but the fiction presented a hopeful outcome of rehabilitation and recovery by means of magical techniques and the exercise of True Will. At the time of his death he was taking heroin on his doctor's prescription.
Biographer Lawrence Sutin stated that "blatant bigotry is a persistent minor element in Crowley's writings." The book's introduction calls Crowley "a spoiled scion of a wealthy Victorian family who embodied many of the worst John Bull racial and social prejudices of his upper-class contemporaries," Sutin also writes, "Crowley embodied the contradiction that writhed within many Western intellectuals of the time: deeply held racist viewpoints courtesy of their culture, coupled with a fascination with people of colour."
Crowley defended the use of violence against the Chinese, specifically the lower classes. He applied the term "nigger" to Italians (in Diary of a Drug Fiend Book I, Chapter 9) and Indians, and called the Indian theosophist Jiddu Krishnamurti "negroid".
Crowley, according to the biographer, Lawrence Sutin, used racial epithets to bully Victor Neuburg during a sadomasochistic magical working: "Crowley leveled numerous brutal verbal attacks on Neuburg's family and Jewish ancestry". The two became lovers by the end of that year if not before, but "whether or not Crowley and Neuburg had sexual relations during this magical retirement is unclear," according to Sutin.
Crowley's published expressions of antisemitism were disturbing enough to later editors of his works that one of them, Israel Regardie, who had also been a student of Crowley, attempted to suppress them. In 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley (Samuel Weiser, 1975), Regardie, who was Jewish, explained his complete excision of Crowley's antisemitic commentary on the Kabbalah in the sixth unnumbered page of his editorial introduction: "I am...omitting Crowley's Preface to the book. It is a nasty, malicious piece of writing, and does not do justice to the system with which he is dealing."
What Regardie had removed was Crowley's "Preface to Sepher Sephiroth", originally published in Equinox 1:8. Written in 1911, which contained a statement of Crowley's belief in the blood libel against the Jews:
Crowley rhetorically asked how a system of value such as Qabala could come from what "the general position of the ethnologist" called "an entirely barbarous race, devoid of any spiritual pursuit," and "polytheists" to boot. As Crowley himself practiced polytheism, some read these remarks as deliberate irony.
Human sacrifices are today still practised by the Jews of Eastern Europe, as is set forth at length by Sir Richard Burton in the MS. which the wealthy Jews of England have compassed heaven and earth to suppress, and evidenced by the ever-recurring Pogroms against which so senseless an outcry is made by those who live among those degenerate Jews who are at least not cannibals.
Crowley repeated his claim that Jews in Eastern Europe practice ritual child-murder in at least one later work as well, namely the section on mysticism in Book Four or Magick. Here he uses quotation marks for "ritual murder" and for "Christian" children.
An article at The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum makes the following claim while speaking of the previously mentioned remark elsewhere in Magick:
Crowley studied and promoted the mystical and magical teachings of some of the same ethnic groups he attacked, in particular Indian yoga, Jewish Kabbalah and goetia, and the Chinese I Ching. Also, in Confessions Chapter 86, as well as a private diary which Lawrence Sutin quotes in Do What Thou Wilt chapter 7, Crowley recorded a memory of a "past life" as the Chinese Taoist writer Ko Hsuan. In another remembered life, Crowley said, he took part in a "Council of Masters" that included many from Asia. He has this to say about the virtues of "Eurasians" and then Jews:
At first glance Crowley seems to be advocating an atrocity, the sacrifice of a child, the bugaboo of witchhunters and anti-Semites everywhere. But in fact he is claiming that the historical legend of child sacrifice, used to persecute so many "witches" and Jews, veils a sexual formula of self-sacrifice. In a secret document of the IX*, the "blood libel" against the Jews -- the story that they celebrate covert rituals employing the blood of sacrificed children -- is taken as a statement that certain sects of the Hassidim possess this secret. The early Christians were accused of such practices by the Roman establishment, and the Gnostic Catholic Church considers this to be evidence of a continuity of the sexual secret from the Gnostics.
All these remarks must necessarily be contrasted with Crowley's explicit philosophical instructions in his last book Magick Without Tears. Chapter 73, which is titled "'Monsters', Niggers, Jews, etc," states his essentially individualistic and anti-racialist views:
I do not believe that their universally admitted baseness is due to a mixture of blood or the presumable peculiarity of their parents; but that they are forced into vileness by the attitude of both their white and coloured neighbours. A similar case is presented by the Jew, who really does only too often possess the bad qualities for which he is disliked; but they are not proper to his race. No people can show finer specimens of humanity. The Hebrew poets and prophets are sublime. The Jewish soldier is courageous, the Jewish rich man generous. The race possesses imagination, romance, loyalty, probity and humanity in an exceptional degree.
But the Jew has been persecuted so relentlessly that his survival has depended on the development of his worst qualities; avarice, servility, falseness, cunning and the rest. Even the highest-class Eurasians such as Ananda Koomaraswamy suffer acutely from the shame of being considered outcast. The irrationality and injustice of their neighbours heightens the feeling and it breeds the very abominations which the snobbish inhumanity of their fellow-men expects of them.
...you say, "Every man and every woman is a star." does need some attention to the definition of "man" and "woman." What is the position, you say, of "monsters"? And men of "inferior" races, like the Veddah, Hottentot and the Australian Blackfellow? There must be a line somewhere, and will I please draw it? ... Not only does it seem to me the only conceivable way of reconciling this and similar passages with "Every man and every woman is a star." to assert the sovereignty of the individual, and to deny the right-to-exist to "class-consciousness," "crowd-psychology," and so to mob-rule and Lynch-Law, but also the only practicable plan whereby we may each one of us settle down peaceably to mind his own business, to pursue his True Will, and to accomplish the Great Work.The "Thelemic" philosophical position which he taught in this volume (which is a series of letters of direct personal instruction to a student of Magick) is clearly an anti-racist one. Even in private comments on Mein Kampf, Crowley said that his own preferred "master class" was above all distinctions of race.
Biographer Lawrence Sutin stated that Crowley "largely accepted the notion, implicitly embodied in Victorian sexology, of women as secondary social beings in terms of intellect and sensibility." Occult scholar Tim Maroney compares him to other figures and movements of the time and suggests that some others might have shown more respect for women. Another biographer, whilst describing Crowley's misogyny, asserts that in other ways he was pro-feminist who thought women were badly served by the law. He considered abortion to be tantamount to murder and thought little of a society which condoned it, believing that women, when left to choose outside of prevailing social influences, would never want to end a pregnancy.
Crowley stated that women, except "a few rare individuals," care most about having children and will conspire against their husbands if they lack children to whom to devote themselves. In Confessions, Crowley says he learned this from his first marriage. He claimed that their intentions were to force a man to abandon his life's work for their interests. He only found women "tolerable", he wrote, when they served the role of solely helping a man in his life's work. However, he said that they were incapable of actually understanding the nature of this work itself. He also claimed that women did not have individuality and were solely guided by their habits or impulses. In this respect Crowley displayed the conventional attitude to women for a male of his time.
Nevertheless, when he sought what he called the supreme magical-mystical attainment, Crowley asked Leah Hirsig to direct his ordeals, marking the first time since the schism in the Golden Dawn that another person verifiably took charge of his initiation. In the Hierophant section of the Book of Thoth, he interprets a verse from the Book of the Law that speaks of "the woman girt with a sword; she represents the Scarlet Woman in the hierarchy of the new Aeon.(...)This woman represents Venus as she now is in this new aeon; no longer the mere vehicle of her male counterpart, but armed and militant."
In his Commentaries on the Book of the Law, Crowley stated what he considered to be the correct Thelemic position towards women:
[Source(article+pics) & elaborate infos on Mr. Crowley: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleister_Crowley]
We of Thelema say that "Every man and every woman is a star." We do not fool and flatter women; we do not despise and abuse them. To us, a woman is herself, absolute, original, independent, free, self-justified, exactly as a man is.