Once notorious as “the wickedest man in the world”, Aleister Crowley was an occultist and ceremonial magician. He is still regarded as the most influential occultists of all time even though several decades have passed since his death. Crowley led a life that was absolutely shocking given the time and era he lived in; he was a heavy user of recreational drugs and notorious for his sexual practices with individuals of both sexes. He joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as a young man and claimed to have been contacted by Aiwass, his Holy Guardian Angel. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age and played a significant role in founding the religion of Thelema which proposes that the adherents, known as Thelemites should seek out their own true path in life and follow it. Eventually this philosophy came to be accepted by the Ordo Templis Orientis (O.T.O.). Crowley went on to form his own occult society and later on created a religious commune called the Abbey of Thelema. A man having interests in a wide range of fields, he was also an avid mountaineer who had scaled several lofty peaks all over the world. He led a highly controversial life and was also known as The Beast 666.
- He was born as Edward Alexander Crowley to Edward Crowley and Emily Bishop. His parents were evangelist Christians and his father was deeply religious. He had a strained relationship with his mother.He was sent to study at H.T. Habershon’s evangelist Christian boarding school when he was eight years old.Later on, he went to the preparatory Ebor School in Cambridge. He considered the head of the institute, Reverend Henry d’Arcy Champney to be a sadist.His father died of cancer when he was 11 years old.After school he attended Malvern College before going to Tonbridge School. He hated college and dropped out after a few terms.He was sent to Eastbourne College where he became interested in poetry, mountaineering and chess. He became critical of the morals of Christianity and started having sex with several women including prostitutes.He joined the Scottish Mountaineering Club and climbed Beachy Head, Eiger, Trift, and Monch among other peaks.He enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1895 to study Moral Science though he later switched to English literature. During this time he adopted the name Aleister.His love for poetry grew and many of his poems started appearing in the college’s student publications. He also became very skilled at playing chess and climbing mountains.Later Years
- He went on a holiday to Sweden in 1896 where he had a major mystical experience that originated from his first same-sex sexual encounter. He began to lead a highly promiscuous life having sexual relations with people of both genders.During 1897 he began getting interested in Black Magic and Occult and decided that pursuing occult was the purpose of his life.He dropped out of Cambridge in 1898 without completing his degree in spite of being a good student.He became a member of the occult society known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1898. There he adopted the magical name of ‘Frater Perdurabo’. He learned ceremonial magic and ritualistic drug usage from senior Golden Dawn members.He published several collections of poetry which included ‘Jezebel and Other Tragic Poems’ (1898), ‘Tales of Archais’ (1898), and ‘Jephthah’ (1899).He spent the next few years traveling all over India, Mexico, and Paris studying various religious customs, especially Indian practices like raja yoga and dhyana. He also scaled various mountain peaks while on the trip.During 1904, he was on a trip to Egypt. There he claimed to have heard the voice of ‘Aiwass’, a holy entity which dictated to him the text of ‘The Book of the Law’—the central sacred text that formed the base for the religion Thelema.Thelema was a religious philosophy he developed after his spiritual experience in Egypt. He claimed himself to be the prophet of a new age after founding this religion.By 1907 he had left the Order of the Golden Dawn and in collaboration with fellow occultist George Cecil Jones created the magical order A∴A∴, a Thelemic magical fraternity.He became a prominent member of the religious organization Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O) and remodeled it around the Law of Thelema.He founded the Abbey of Thelema, a temple and a spiritual centre, with a Swiss-American lady Leah Hirsig in Sicily in 1920.Major Work
- Regarded as the most powerful occultist of all time, Crowley’s biggest contribution to ceremonial magic was the founding of the religion Thelema which indicates that its adherents should seek out their ‘True Will’—or grand destiny—instead of their egoistic pursuits.He is the author of Thelema’s major sacred text, ‘The Book of the Law’, which he claimed was dictated to him by his holy guardian angel, Aiwass.Personal Life & Legacy
- He married the sister of his friend, Rose Edith Kelly in 1903. They had two daughters and later separated because of his wife’s alcoholism.He married Maria de Miramar in 1929. The couple separated within a year though they did not divorce.He led an unrestrained life characterized by vigorous sexual activities with both men and women, and had a history of recreational drug usage.He was said to be a misogynist who physically and sexually abused women.He had a number of children born through his numerous sexual liaisons with different women.He died of a respiratory infection in 1947. The last doctor to have treated him died within 24 hours of Crowley’s death—supposedly of a curse the magician had put on him.Trivia
- He was rumored to be a lifelong agent for British Intelligence.The character of Oliver Haddo in the 1908 novel, ‘The Magician’ was modeled on the life of this occultist cum magician.
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