Aleister Crowley the man

By Barry Kavanagh, 17 October 2000

« Ideas, entities and Aleister Crowley | End of the interview: visions, entities and The Devil Rides Out »

Have you read the John Symonds biography of Crowley?

The Great Beast.

Um, yeah and then it was updated as King of the Shadow Realm.

Uh-huh. Well, I read The Great Beast, I mean, you know, it’s a good biography, if you accept the fact that John Symonds clearly does not like Aleister Crowley. It’s kind of biased. There’s a new one that’s just come out which I’ve just started, which seems to be a bit more balanced. I’ve forgotten who it’s by but it’s one that’s just come out in the last month or so.

I heard that Lawrence Sutin, who wrote Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick is doing one.

I’m not sure about that but –

– It might be just a rumour –

– That sounds interesting. Yeah, Crowley’s an interesting guy. I think that one of the problems with Crowley is the people who are interested in him, that you’ll get a lot of these little fucking middle class Satanists who are just trying to shock their mum and dad. They’ve heard that Aleister Crowley was “the wickedest man in the world” and so they say “Oh yeah, well I’m really into Crowley and I’m really into the philosophy of Charles Manson and I really like William Burroughs.” They don’t like William Burroughs because he was a brilliant writer, they like him because he shot his wife and did a lot of junk. It’s this kind of “Look at me, I’m being bad.”

Yeah, I see it as very American as well, there’s so much Christianity [there] that they just take these symbols and you know, one creates the other, the extreme of Christianity creates this kind of satanic thing.

Oh sure, It’s like Anton Szandor La Vey, you know? Melinda Gebbie, who’s my girlfriend as well as a collaborator, she’s from San Francisco. She went over there and was meeting up with a lot of her old friends, a lot of the American underground artists, I mean ’cause she used to be one of them, and she was also hanging out with Carla La Vey, who she says is a very nice woman –

– That’s the daughter, is it?

Yeah but who has had to grow up being Satan’s daughter and she [Melinda] said that she actually saw La Vey’s house and you know, it’s a rubber Satan show. It’s carnival Satanism, it’s just anti-Christianity. That’s what I don’t like about – I mean, in the pure philosophy of Christianity, I find there’s a lot to recommend it, the same as there is in an awful lot of different schools of thought -but the actual religion Christianity is obviously something that is completely soul-destroying. It’s just a big a mistake to try and become the mirror image of it, “Oh you’re good, so we’ll be bad.” Because to some degree Satanism is purely a kind of disease of Christianity. You’ve got to really be Christian to believe in Satan.

There’s a Taoist principle where opposites create each other.

Yes, of course they do. I think that is absolutely spot-on. You couldn’t really argue with that. Yeah, opposites create each other, black creates white. All these dualities, that you can’t really have a single thought enter the world without its shadow following behind it immediately. No, I agree completely.

What are your thoughts on Crowley the man?

I think that he was a brilliant scholar. I think that it’s difficult to make a judgement of Crowley, mainly because he himself did almost everything he could to obscure his – I mean, he played up to all the rumours and the notoriety and for a while I think he thought “Oh well, all publicity is good publicity.” It didn’t actually work out like that.

He had a very painful end.

Well, it depends. I tell you, I’ve got a great little picture. Well, it’s only in a catalogue, it’s a reproduction. I went down to that Crowley exhibition that they had a couple of years ago in London. They’d got a load of his paintings. And they’d also got paintings by Frieda Harris. And they’d got, yeah, a couple of originals from the Thoth deck, which were nice to look at, quite interesting to see. They’d also got this little pencil drawing called A.C. Dying by Frieda Harris. A little pencil drawing of this frail, skeletal guy with a wispy beard, sunk in the pillows of his bed, eaten away, consumed by his illness and he’s got one finger, just touching his bottom lip. And when you hear of the alleged Crowley’s last words, “I am perplexed,” then – yeah, I was coming out of the exhibition with Steve Moore and talking to him, he’s a friend of mine, a fellow comic writer, a fellow occultist and he was one of the editors of Fortean Times for a long while.

He edits Fortean Studies.

Yeah, he edits Fortean Studies, well he’s recently packed that it but he’s back into comic writing now but Steve’s one of my oldest friends, no relation but I’ve known him since I was fourteen. But we were coming out of the thing and we were talking about this vulnerable, fragile little pencil sketch of Crowley and Steve said “You know, it’s very much like the actual pictorial of the ‘I am perplexed,’ you know, the finger to the lip, wondering, questioning,” and I thought “Yeah but on the other hand it kind of looks like the sign of silence,” and it’s quite ambiguous. Is it “I am perplexed?” which would be a terrible thing, to be the last words of a man like that, you know, a terrible, damning thing for Crowley. Or is it a magus, making the sign of silence? There’s something about the ambiguity that I really liked and that I really found emblematic of what I think of Crowley. If I wanted to morally judge him, I’d say that he was probably a bit selfish, probably a bit thoughtless about other people sometimes.

Like Ninette Shumway?

Like his women in general, although sometimes I think that the women caused him as much pain as he caused them. Probably a little bit silly, probably a little bit selfish, certainly not evil.

No, I would never have thought that.

No, the “evil” was all kind of theatrical, it was all playing up to the Sunday newspapers and stuff like that, which probably wasn’t a good idea, it certainly wasn’t as good an idea as he thought at the time.

His magic is definitely something he couldn’t escape from. When he tried to write novels, Moonchild, Diary of a Drug Fiend, they’re just full of it, full of all this –

– I think that they were intended to actually be magical works. I think that the big problem with –

– I think they’re awful as novels.

They’re not that good. I tell you, the main problem is that they actually read very much like Dennis Wheatley but with the sides reversed. It’s very much like “Alright, we’re still in a Dennis Wheatley novel but now all the Satanists are the good guys.” [Laughs] No, I mean, there are some bits of his writing that are brilliant. Some of his writings, it’s doggerel, some of it is very beautiful. I admire the prose style of The Book of the Law, that’s about all I admire about it. I’m sure that there probably is great wisdom there and I’m pretty certain he did channel it from somewhere but I don’t think it was from the genuine Angel of the Aeon! It was probably something pretty fucking big and scary but no, no, I could never accept [it], it’s too mad and cruel, it’s too heartless, it’s too inhuman, I’m not interested in that. If that’s what godhood’s all about then I’ll settle with what I’ve got.

« Ideas, entities and Aleister Crowley | End of the interview: visions, entities and The Devil Rides Out »


  1. A lister cowley a sick drug addicted satanic pedophile who ate excrement was misunderstood well we know what side this guy’s on .

    1. All the Crowley apologists never seem to address what he most certainly was proven to be: a COWARD.

      Abandoning his wife and children, refusing to leave a tent to help members of his climbing expedition who needed rescue.

      Coward coward coward.

      This is why Christianity is important. We look up to heroes and emulate their bravery.

      Crowley was no hero. He was pitiful.

  2. You’re an idiot he was none of those things besides a drug addict, except he was prescribed all these things due to ashtma.. You do no what year he lived in? Please read magick without tears written in almost his last year which is a book of letters helping students who wrote to him and get back to me, ignorant fool. A satanist? Didn’t believe in him. A prdophile? Had 20 mistresses in his life all adults.

  3. Thelema Quotes 12: Sex and Sexuality

    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

    Installment number 12 of Thelema Quotes focuses on the subject of sex and sexuality within the Law of Thelema. All quotes are from Aleister Crowley or The Book of the Law.

    Quotation #1
    “Also, take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will! But always unto me… Love is the law, love under will.”

    –The Book of the Law I:51, 57

    Quotation #2
    “Every star must calculate its own orbit. All is Will, and yet all is Necessity. To swerve is ultimately impossible; to seek to swerve is to suffer.

    The Beast 666 ordains by His authority that every man, and every woman, and every intermediately-sexed individual, shall be absolutely free to interpret and communicate Self by means of any sexual practices soever, whether direct or indirect, rational or symbolic, physiologically, legally, ethically, or religiously approved or no, provided only that all parties to any act are fully aware of all implications and responsibilities thereof, and heartily agree thereto.

    Moreover, 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, whose error else might thwart and misdirect the growth of their subconscious system of soul-symbolism.”

    -Commentary to The Book of the Law I:51

    Quotation #3
    “When you have proved that God is merely a name for the sex instinct, it appears to me not far to the perception that the sex instinct is God.”

    -Review of Ida Craddock’s “Heavenly Bridegrooms” in “The Tank” from The Equinox III:1

    Quotation #4
    “There shall be no property in human flesh. The sex-instinct is one of the most deeply-seated expressions of the will; and it must not be restricted, either negatively by preventing its free function, or positively by insisting on its false function. What is more brutal than to stunt natural growth or to deform it? What is more absurd than to seek to interpret this holy instinct as a gross animal act, to separate it from the spiritual enthusiasm without which it is so stupid as not even to be satisfactory to the persons concerned?

    The sexual act is a sacrament of Will. To profane it is the great offence. All true expression of it is lawful; all suppression or distortion is contrary to the Law of Liberty. To use legal or financial constraint to compel either abstention or submission, is entirely horrible, unnatural and absurd.”

    -Commentary to The Book of the Law I:41

    Quotation #5
    “Sex is the sacred song of the soul; sex is the sanctuary of Self…

    Sex is the supreme sacrament, wherein the body and blood are offered up to the soul. The elements thereof must be worthy, their consecration absolute…

    The sexual nature of a man is his most intense expression of himself; his subconsciousness endeavours thereby to inform his consciousness of his Will… It is supremely sacred to him, and to interfere with its expression, or try to edit it, is an abominable crime.”

    -“On Sexual Freedom” from The Revival of Magick

    Quotation #6
    “Consent or refusal are to be determined by the impulse itself, without reference to any other motives such as commonly influence action. ‘So with thy all; thou hast no right but to do thy will’ (AL, I:42). Every thought, word, or act without exception is subject to this law. ‘Do what thou wilt’ does not give license to do anything else; lest this be not understood, the doctrine is here explicit: ‘Thou hast no right but to do thy will.’ Every particle of energy must be built into this single-track machine of will; directly or indirectly, it must serve the one purpose. A very small hole in the hull may sink a very large ship. Every act, therefore, with the thoughts and words which determine its performance, is a sacrament.

    Now of all acts the most intrinsically important is the act of love. Firstly, because the ecstasy which accompanies its due performance is a physical image, or hint, of the state of Samadhi, since the consciousness of the Ego is temporarily in abeyance; secondly, because its normal effect on the material plane is, or may be, incalculably vast. (The emphasis on the word ‘due’ is absolute.) Precisely because it is so powerful a weapon, its use is hedged in with manifold precautions, and its abuse deprecated in injunctions heavily charged with menace…”

    -Artemis Iota vel de Coitu Scholia Triviae

    Quotation #7
    “Every one should discover, by experience of every kind, the extent and intention of his own sexual Universe. He must be taught that all roads are equally royal, and that the only question for him is ‘Which road is mine?’ All details are equally likely to be of the essence of his personal plan, all equally ‘right’ in themselves, his own choice of the one as correct as, and independent of, his neighbour’s preference for the other. He must not be ashamed or afraid of being homosexual if he happens to be so at heart; he must not attempt to violate his own true nature because public opinion, or mediaeval morality, or religious prejudice would wish he were otherwise.”

    -Commentary to The Book of the Law I:51

    Quotation #8
    “The word of Sin is Restriction. O man! refuse not thy wife, if she will! O lover, if thou wilt, depart! There is no bond that can unite the divided but love: all else is a curse. Accursed! Accursed be it to the aeons! Hell.”

    –The Book of the Law I:41

  4. All you Crowley apologists need to remember that even if he wasn’t a pedophile or advocate of human torture and sacrifice, he was still a COWARD.

    Left people to die on the mountainside. In the end, Crowley was a scared little man and no hero.

  5. All you Crowley apologists need to remember that even if he wasn’t a pedophile or advocate of human torture and sacrifice, he was still a COWARD.

    Left people to die on the mountainside. In the end, Crowley was a scared little man and no hero.

    1. You do love to repeat yourself. Regarding the mountain deaths, he told those guys they’d be dead if they didn’t listen to him and they went ahead anyway.

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