Edgelord Messiah: The Unfortunate Infatuation with Aleister Crowley

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.

HERE IS A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON MAGIC SANS TRADITIONAL OCCULTISM

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20 thoughts on “Edgelord Messiah: The Unfortunate Infatuation with Aleister Crowley

  1. Yup.
    Crowley magick is in the vien of the Enlightenment teleology. I mean. “Do what thy wilt”. What a better synopsis of the whole modern project that peaks out with ‘the final solution’.

    But it is kind of an achievement, in one way, to see that he took all the systems that were available, all the magical systems that had been represented and/or passed down through time, even like the keys of Solomon and shit like that like he took it all astrology legend myth and he put it all together any systemized it. It’s like the epitome of protestant religion of communion with the transcendent.

    I like the “book of lies”. Though: it’s like a window into a psychology of communion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is there any magical system that was not a mash-up?

    But that begs the question of the legitimacy of reference.

    I mean say we keep going back in the Bible and we been of the books of the Bible and then we find you know original Christian sources that we hadn’t found before we had him take knowledge before, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls or the other ones that they found another place.

    Even if they were to dissect those books to be able to say oh it came from this or that place, at what point. X. ?

    I mean what made people in the past smarter than now?

    At what point do we get to an original source?

    Was Crowley really just picking through a bunch of books and then assembling things because they use the same words or something like that and then mishmash them together to assemble a bunch of other words that seems like they might have definitions that go together but actually they belong to some legitimate system ? that wasn’t a mashup or perhaps was a mash up of some previous separate systems?

    At what point does it not become a mash up?

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    1. Have you read my article on Ritual Generosity Magic? I don’t think the ideas there have ever been expressed as magical in any occultism I have ever encountered. I will be writing an article soon about “Living Rituals” that are entirely personal constructs that incorporate ritual into living, not sessions.

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      1. thats great! I love it. funny, cute, and it seemed to work. Im not sure, though, how must in your posts you are being facetious and how mush you are being honest (and not facetious) .

        I feel like an ex-girlfreind of mine who was a Wiccan did the same things, with a little more flamboyancy. 🙂

        I experimented for a few years with various sorts of what could be considered “the possibility of magic”. I found that the mind is able to set up for itself possibility that will yield results which confirm the approach, either in a positive or negative way, so that actually the positive and negative is able to confirm the validity of the result: That it does matter so much “if it works” but more that “the condition of working” will Also yield a result which confirms the experiment to show the person that “the question as correct”.

        It is good, for sure, for many applications.

        But I am wondering where your comedy starts and ends.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wicca has some good ideas for magic beyond the occult, but also dressed in identity and fluff. I definitely drew some inspiration from there.

        I like blurry lines. If I can be defined, I can be trapped!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only got a bare surface awareness of Crowley — Thelema, every man and woman a star, reviled by the HOGD, etc. — so I’ve nothing to say about the man or his work, but in terms of your emphasis about the magician creating a method or format that works for him or herself based on his or her own understanding of the world and personal eccentricities, I couldn’t agree more. This is something I’ve done with my Tarot work, and while it’s really rewarding to have such a strong connection to my understanding of the cards, it can also be lonely because I’m the only one who sees it my way. But then, I suppose that’s part of being a good magician: daring to do your own work in your own name for your own reasons, versus echoing somebody else’s work in somebody else’s name for somebody else’s reasons. Apart from Crowley, with whom I’m not sufficiently familiar to have an opinion, I thought it was a great essay. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, James! I just finished a follow-up piece on the inseparability of art and the artist, if you are interested in exploring that idea further.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. His Mother was a tyrannical bitch….sooo…and England’s been totalitarian for quite a while…so where’ the surprise here ?

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  5. I really like the idea of a personalised magic where ritual is subsumed into daily activities, how could that not enrich our daily lives while making the mundane more magical!
    As for Crowley, judging him by our current hyper-sensitive standards is not sensible. Judge him by the standards of his own day, if you must.
    Also, associating the “Alt-right” as one mass movement and then suggesting it is “dangerous” shows political bias and is little more than lazy smearing. A magician needs to avoid such witless labelling. There is intelligence and goodness everywhere, if you fall into the trap of deeming huge swathes of the population “deplorables” as a certain lady did recently, look how they will respond to you, and you to them! I see no advantage in these kinds of identity politics within magic. Let’s keep our minds open…!

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    1. I judge by my standards, not those of any time.

      And keeping an open mind to fascists doesn’t make you some kind of an hero. Thats just crazy talk.

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  6. Im sorry but this makes no sense to me.Perhaps I misunderstand.
    If you take Crowley out of his timeframe,you are judging him by normal modern standards,which have changed considerably,and to the extent of what is entailed in the New Aeons unfolding.

    The very fact the man escaped a Victorian childhood,has ramifications none of can fully grasp,even if well versed in the modes and manners of such.

    To discard his teachings,which have proven scientifically to be repeatable,and work-is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I see your point,but your magic covers no new grounds that any serious Initiate and Crowley scholar knows to be workable,

    I say this as INITIATE, and a lifetime scholar of not only Crowley but all the magic working,study and practice -he has shown that must be laid as groundwork,to even approach a elementary level of understanding his work( which he never was good at communicating), can and is proven to be the classical basis for any sort of magic we CAN do.

    Much like Balanchine,or Stravinsky,or William Bennett of Cut Hands/Whitehouse fame-all know to be true;you cannot break the rules without knowing how to be what the rules are breaking,inside and out,first.

    Also,as a woman (and I am not a alt rightist),there is much to reveal that its not the so called Patriarchy that is the issue. On youtube,manwomanmyth has a sensitive and well balanced series showing much of our problems stem from Big Business Corporate breaking down both sexes,to create a gender war.

    I think you mean well,and have genuine understanding of some sensitive topics, but you come off when speaking of Crowley,and Occult magic staples-as a lightweight who has not actually done the Work,or the research to speak from a unbiased,scientific understanding of either why these things are such as they are,or why we need lose all part and parcel of them.

    Sorry if this is garbled,Im disabled ( which is why Ive had 47 to spend sussing this whole thing out. )

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    1. Crowley preached a magic based on will. He was a junkie who lost his fortune on impulsiveness. Nothing about him says ‘effective’ in any way.

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