Aleister Crowley is revered by modern magicians as a master of the craft, but it is impossible to divorce his works from his misogyny and fascist tendencies.
Yesterday I wrote a piece entitled ‘The Occult: A Silly Game for Goth Dorks‘ which should be seen a companion piece for the following diatribe against the Great Beast. But first I need to clear up some misunderstandings and equivocations that piece triggered in its audience, which are also likely to be reproduced here without clarification.
I myself am a magician. My rejection of the occult does not equate with a rejection of magic in general. I specifically reject the prepackaged mass of ideas and symbols that generally fall under the term ‘occultism’ and believe that a magical system should be one’s own creation from ground up, and not just a traditional recycling of ancient religious and mythological bric-a-brac. While I understand that investigating what others have done can help you create your own unique magical systems, my specific issue is with repetitive validation and advocacy of the same old things, which actually deter magical efforts and give magicians a reputation which resembles stock characters out of some silly cartoon. Discussion of the occult (and Crowley) in magic circles is so obvious and expected that the entire culture of modern magicians has begun to feel scripted and stale.
Twenty years ago I was drawn into the world of Aleister Crowley by writer/philosopher Robert Anton Wilson. So enamored was I that I bought both his biography and an autobiography, as well as purchased his entire magical writings in cd-rom form. Suffice it to say I am not critiquing Crowley from ignorance, failed comprehension or plain spite. But neither am I going to roll out a checklist of specific indictments as this is not a research paper and I am not an objective journalist, and my concern is not to inform with specific details but to spur introspection through my own style of jangly, misfit rhetoric. Do your own research if you doubt my accusations.
Occasionally I audit my mind and try to root out things that no longer serve me. As a part of that process I began to eventually question some ideas which drew me back to Crowley in a less favorable way. While examining other issues I was no longer able to excuse his vile behaviors and beliefs as I had done too easily before, and I saw that the works of Crowley were laced with his character flaws all throughout.
You simply cannot separate the magician from their magic. Magic is personal and holistic. It arises as a sum of the mental contents of its creator. If those mental contents are flawed then the magic they produce will contain those flaws. With Crowley it is easy to see that his sex magick contains obvious strains of misogyny. It also becomes apparent that his attempts to use magic against others flows from the troubling fascist tendencies that were part and parcel of his political and socioeconomic beliefs. Suspicion of his works is a rational response to the realization of the faulty premises they were constructed upon.
I understand that Crowley is a fascinating figure. He is certainly appealing to those who want to buck the Judeo-Christian norms. However he really doesn’t represent a break from those traditions, but just a perversion of them. Crowley’s ideas about individualism are almost exactly akin to those of Martin Luther and the Protestant philosophy he espoused, while his misogynistic streak indicates a lack of respect for personal agency, which is a far healthier narrative of individuality than the sneering selfishness Crowley endorsed.
I can even see why a magician would feel compelled to study Crowley’s magical system to form a rough sketch from which to construct their own. What I take exception to are Crowley copycats and eager advocates. Advocating his work validates his character, whether you like it or not. It causes people to seek out Crowley’s writings, which rewards his flawed ideology, even if posthumously. Not so long ago the alt right was mining Crowley’s occult ideas as well as his penchant for combativeness and shock, so there is a clear example of the danger which perpetuating Crowleyism presents.
Shock and combativeness have become pervasive norms of modern culture. They are the status quo. Crowley is no longer fringe, he is a symbol of mainstream behaviors that are degrading and destructive. It is time to let go and to advance the narrative; to re-empower magic by drawing a line between it and the toxic masculinity and perverted patriarchism that has been all too familiar amongst icons of the occult. Become the magician they are talking about a hundred years from now, and not just a conduit for the same old to flow into the future. That, to me, is the entire spirit of the magical enterprise.