Here is an excerpt from my new book, Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and The Wickedest Man in the World (Tarcher/Penguin). In it I ask why Crowley became a rock and roll mainstay, unlike Jung, Madame Blavatsky, and other esoteric figures embraced by the 1960s counter culture, and what his philosophy of "do what thou wilt" can mean for us today. Here's the opening to Chapter One, "The Unforgivable Sin."
In recent years visitors to London’s National Portrait Gallery may have wondered about a painting that was added to its collection in 2003. There amid portraits of Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Fredrick Delius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Ernest Shackleton, Ernest Rutherford, and other important British figures is a striking canvas whose bright colors and unusual subject jump out at the viewer. The portrait shows its subject in a yogic pose, the fingers of both hands curled in a chin mudra, a meditative gesture designed to aid in pranayama, a breathing technique to gather the vital force, or prana, in the body. A bright red robe drapes over the figure, his dark hair and eyebrows contrasting strongly with the golden- yellow backdrop, and a single black forelock offers a faint suggestion of a horn. Not much is known about the artist, Leon Engers Kennedy, but like his subject he was interested in mysticism, magic, and the stranger side of life. The portrait was done in New York in 1917, during the subject’s difficult years in America, and a look at the biographical note tells us that he was a writer, mountaineer, and occultist. He also had a taste for adopting names, at different times calling himself the Master Therion, the Great Beast 666, and Baphomet.
The portrait is of Aleister Crowley although the curators, no doubt sticklers for accuracy, have him down as “Edward Alexander (‘Aleister’) Crowley,” a name that on some occasions, usually legal ones, he did in fact use. When I visited the gallery not too long ago for the first time in some years and came upon Crowley’s image, the same one used as the frontispiece for Vol. III No. I of his magical magazine The Equinox (the “blue Equinox” as it is called), I was surprised that it was there, and at first couldn’t believe it. The National Portrait Gallery was established in 1856 with the idea of collecting portraits of “famous British men and women.” But surely Crowley wasn’t just famous. He was infamous. A black magician, drug addict, sexual pervert, traitor, and all-around troublemaker— Crowley famous? That the curators of a gallery designed to house Britain’s best and brightest should include the “wickedest man in the world” struck me as odd, almost aberrant. It was as if they had discovered a portrait of Jack the Ripper and decided to hang that, too.
Crowley was no Ripper, although there is more than a little suspicion that he was responsible for some deaths, and Crowley himself went out of his way to suggest this. Yet during the height of Crowley’s infamy, in the 1920s and ’30s, the idea that his portrait could hang in the same room as the painter Roger Fry, the socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell, and the biologist Julian Huxley (brother of Aldous Huxley) as an example of a famous Briton would have been unthinkable. He was indeed “a Man We’d Like to Hang,” as an article in the newspaper John Bull, which had a peculiar hatred of Crowley, called him, but certainly not in that way. More likely Crowley’s portrait would have found a place on Scotland Yard’s “most wanted” list, if John Bull and the other scandal sheets that “exposed” his exploits had it their way. Nevertheless, I had to chuckle. Although Crowley did practically everything he could to disgust and infuriate the British society he loathed with an often tedious obstinacy, he also always wanted its acceptance, and to be taken for what he never quite was: an English gentleman. I wondered, assuming he still existed in some sentient form in the cosmos— he was a great believer in reincarnation and claimed quite a few prestigious names for his past lives— musn’t he must be chuckling too, seeing that he had finally been accepted into the club that for the longest time wouldn’t have him as a member?
If we have any doubt that the Great Beast is finding a new place for himself in British history, we have only to look at the 2002 BBC Poll of the Top 100 Britons. Crowley came in at number 73, beating out J.R .R . Tolkien, Johnny Rotten, Chaucer, and Sir Walter Raleigh, among others. Crowley is in danger of becoming just another English eccentric, which is how the British public usually neutralizes some challenge to its complacency. When I mentioned this to a friend, he added that the next step is to be deemed a national treasure. With Crowley’s image hanging among the portraits of many other national treasures, it looks like he is indeed on his way.
That Crowley was an egotist and mistreated the people in his life - was, indeed, wicked - are not the most important aspects of his career. Other less interesting characters have done the same without having Crowley’s flashes of genius, although, to be sure, Crowley’s ignominy was considerable. Yet for all his inexcusable behavior, Crowley was not “evil,” in the sense that, say, Sherlock Holmes’ adversary, Professor Moriarity was, or the black magicians of the many occult horror films that Crowley inspired were. Crowley was not evil, only insensitive, selfish, and driven by a hunger he seemed unable to satisfy and an incorrigible need to be distracted. He seems an embodiment of the religious thinker Blaise Pascal’s remark that “All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room.” Crowley never sat still in a room, or anywhere else. One of the most telling remarks Crowley ever made was in a letter he wrote in 1905 to his then friend and soon to be brother-in-law, the artist Gerald Kelly. In the midst of a complaint about wasting the last five years of his life on “weakness, miscalled politeness, tact, discretion, care for the feeling of others”—a mistake he would not make again— and a rejection of Christianity, Rationalism, Buddhism, and “all the lumber of the centuries,” Crowley speaks of a “positive and primeval fact, Magic”—he had not yet added the k—with which he will build “a new Heaven and a new Earth.” “I want none of your faint approval or faint dispraise,” he told Kelly. “I want blasphemy, murder, rape, revolution, anything good or bad, but strong.” Crowley needed “strong” things. Nothing could touch him unless it was “strong.” Crowley had to have a lot of sex and it had to be wild; the women he had it with had to be seething with “forbidden lust” of the kind associated with the Marquis de Sade or the poet Baudelaire, and the men he had it with had to humiliate him and bend him to their will. He had to have a lot of drugs; famously, by the end of his life he was taking enough heroin to kill a room full of nonusers. He had to have a lot of drink; he was known to hold an eye- watering amount of liquor. And he had to have a lot of experiences. Crowley’s life was one long hunt for “experiences.” As his biographer and critic John Symonds remarked, Crowley “needed some strong or horrific experience to get ‘turned on’.” Most people, as Symonds remarks, are “turned on”— become interested in something— by sitting at home, reading a book, listening to music, or watching a film. That is, most people embody some form of Pascal’s “sitting still in a room.” Crowley’s need for constant “strong” stimulation suggests that he lacked imagination and that his mind, formidable as it was, was curiously literal. Crowley seems, I think, to have suffered from a kind of autism. I don’t necessarily mean in some pathological sense, but he seemed to lack the kind of nuanced, “tacit knowing” that most of us enjoy and which allows us to grasp the essence or meaning of some idea or experience, without having to go to extremes or into precise detail in order to “get it.” Crowley only got it by going to extremes. In fact, as his friend Louis Wilkinson, who shared with Crowley some of his worst traits, remarked, Crowley’s “cult, his mania, one might say, was for excess in all directions.” Crowley was not evil, but his need for excess, for “strong” things, more times than not, was a source of suffering for those around him.
It may be this characteristic that leads some of Crowley’s recent biographers to remark that his credo of “Do what thou wilt,” “so redolent, seemingly, of license and anarchy, dark deeds and darker dreams, terrifies on first impact, as does Crowley the man,” and that one must feel “terror, a sense of evil, creepiness or disgust” at the mention of his name. This seems a bit extreme itself. With the possible exception of some fundamentalist Christians, I can’t think of anyone who is afraid of Crowley anymore, let alone terrified, or who is so conventional or repressed that they will “experience visceral disgust at the thought of sexual emissions as sacred components of worship,” as Crowley and those who practice his sex-magick thought of them. We live in an “anything goes” society, whose central maxim, “Just Do It,” has been embraced by some contemporary Crowleyans. A great deal of what Crowley got up to is today par for the course, and the extreme behavior he indulged in is, more or less, commonplace. But the important question is: does one have to be frightened of thelema, the name of Crowley’s religion of excess, in order to question it? It strikes me that in order to portray Crowley as some liberator of an uptight mankind— as some of his champions do— our “fear” of the shocking truths he was sent to reveal must be puffed up, and a kind of straw Mr. Conventional must be erected, who trembles at the thought of anyone doing their “true will.” Such imaginary Mrs. Grundys are in fact necessary for a philosophy of “transgression.” They are the windmills against which such radical behavior tilts. It needs them to rebel against; without them, it collapses, its “acts of liberation” deflating to mere personal predilections, its “transgressions” indicating little more than that the people engaging in them have a taste for such things. But no such persons exist, only people who wonder if the kind of life Crowley led is really worth living. I have never been afraid of my or anyone else’s “true will,” and I have lived in both the magical and rock and roll milieus that provide fertile soil for those who are pursuing theirs. This is why I can be critical of Crowley and the liberationist philosophy he embodied— thelema is only one expression of it; it is not a distinctive new creed—and not be dismissed as someone terrified of it. I have been there, done it, and seen it from the inside. I am not a thelemaphobe, to coin a word. I merely find it wrongheaded.
But “excess in all directions?” Sounds like a good album title. No wonder Crowley found a place in rock and roll.
Hi all -
http://tv.nrk.no/serie/schrodingers-kat ... 20-12-2012
Viewed by 500,000 Norwegians around Christmas.
I wonder when it will make it to H2?
Time goes by so quickly, so many things have changed. I wonder sometimes where all the years have gone.
The Forest is Everywhere
“It is essential to know that every man is immortal and that there is eternal life in him, an unexplored yet inhabited land, which, though he himself may deny its existence, no timely power can ever take from him.” Ernst Jünger
The German conservative writer Ernst Jünger is often mistakenly tarred with the same brush as the Nazis, so let me start this review with some reconstruction work. Jünger was never a member of the NSDAP and he twice turned down a seat in the Reichstag. He was courted by Himmler and Goebbels but snubbed both and declined an invitation to join the Deutsche Akademie der Dichtung – the German Writer’s Academy – which was led briefly by Jünger’s equally nationalistic but less fastidious colleague Gottfried Benn. (Early on Benn, another conservative, broke bread with the Nazis but was soon disgusted.) He was a WWI hero – Jünger was wounded fourteen times in the trenches and was the youngest recipient of the pour le Mérite - and unfortunately it is his Dionysian appreciation of the perils of battle – vividly described in his first book Storm of Steel - that informs most English speaking opinions of him today. I say 'informs' but this is a misnomer, as most English readers and critics avoid him because of his unwarranted bad reputation, and so are hardly informed. Yet Jünger was something more than a celebrant of Heraclitus’ dictum that ‘war is the father of all things.’ His allegorical poetic novel On The Marble Cliffs was a thinly veiled and beautifully written critique of totalitarianism in general and the Nazis in particular, but Jünger was so prestigious a national hero that they couldn't ban it. Eventually, he did fall foul of the Reich; he was a conservative thinker who considered Hitler and Co. political thugs and his very visible refusal to collaborate with them was as pointed a criticism as he could make and still survive. He was suspected of involvement in the July 20 1944 attempt on Hitler's life – he was actually on the fringes of it - and one of his sons was imprisoned for 'subversive conversations' regarding the Fuehrer and died soon after. Jünger was a nationalist writer who loved Germany but hated the Nazis and would have nothing to do with them, just as one could, say, love America during the Bush years but have nothing to do with the Neocons. But because in his early career he extolled the virtues of traditional battle - questionable virtues indeed, but he was not alone in this (Homer, anyone?) - his stock among English readers remains low. This is unfortunate. Jünger is one of the most stimulating (and long lived: he died in 1998 at 102) poetic thinkers of the last century, anticipating a number of themes common to our times: altered states, surveillance societies, the unchecked rise of technology and diminishment of nature, and the need to preserve individual freedom in an increasingly mechanized and managed global world.
The quotation above is from The Forest Passage, Jünger's post-WWII essay on how to maintain inner freedom in a society increasingly bent on instituting conformity. First published in 1951, it was aimed at Germany’s recent Nazi past, its possible Soviet future, and the cultural leveling and consumer consciousness sadly associated with western democracies. Its first English translation (by Thomas Friese) is published by the Telos Press, who should be applauded for making more of Jünger available to English readers; their previous efforts include Jünger’s Nietzschean essay On Pain and the unclassifiable The Adventurous Heart, a collection of short prose pieces on a wide variety of subjects, displaying Jünger’s enviable ability to ‘read’ the surfaces of things in order to extract their inner meaning. (My review of it can be found here: http://realitysandwich.com/165435/rs_review_2/)
Like many in the post-war years, Jünger was concerned with the rising anonymity and pervasiveness of the State and it is against its seemingly unstoppable encroachment into our personal lives that The Forest Passage is aimed. The ‘unexplored yet inhabited land’ that lies within us is Jünger’s ‘forest’, an inner (yet sometimes outer) ‘temporary autonomous zone’ ( in Peter Lamborn Wilson’s phrase) that one can enter, provided one has the courage, determination, and will to take on the challenges of being an ‘internal exile’. Readers of Jünger will know that the figure of the ‘forest rebel’ is a kind of prototype of Jünger’s more realized character of the ‘anarch’, the central theme of his late novel Eumeswil. Jünger’s ‘anarch’, however, is not the same as an anarchist. The anarchist needs society, if only as something to tear down, while the anarch seeks a way to maintain his or her freedom within it, while avoiding its dehumanizing effects. The anarch’s resistance can be invisible, unlike the anarchist’s, and his ‘state’ is the one that lies within him, not the one in which he is forced to live. In a way, The Forest Passage aims at providing the reader with a guide to preserving his or her ‘self’ while subjected to the unavoidable pressures of modern government, much as Jünger’s more belligerent and cantankerous English contemporary Wyndham Lewis did in his early work The Art of Being Ruled. (Lewis too served in WWI and his account of his experience – very different from Jünger’s - can be found in his memoir Blasting and Bombardiering.)
“To have a destiny, or to be classified as a number – this decision is forced upon all of us today,” Jünger tells us, “and each of us must face it alone.” This may smack of idealistic elitism yet Jünger is not selling us reserved seats in an ivory tower. As a captain during the occupation of Paris, Jünger knew too well the results of political violence – he risked his own safety more than once by helping some escape it – and he informs his readers that “we cannot limit ourselves to knowing what is good and true on the top floors while fellow human beings are being flayed alive in the cellar.” (Readers of On the Marble Cliffs will recall that ‘flaying’ is the Head Ranger’s chief means of torture.) Nor does Jünger shy from offering images of very visceral resistance, remarking that in olden times the ‘inviolability of the home’ was ensured by the ‘family father who, sons at his sides, fills the doorway with an axe in his hand.” Yet such muscular defense may be less appropriate to our own time, and can too easily be used to support undesirable aims, such as the ‘right’ to bear arms, even if, as Jünger surmises, one such ‘father’ per street in Berlin circa 1933 would have led to a very different result.
More relevant for us, I believe, is Jünger’s emphasis on the encounter with the self, that is at the heart of the ‘forest passage’. Against the forest, that symbol of ‘supra-temporal being’, whose teaching is ‘as ancient as human history’, Jünger posits ‘the Titanic’, a symbol of technological might heading for disaster. Although many today take the idea of a ‘forest passage’ literally, and in different ways, try to be ‘off the grid’ and ‘self-sufficient’, that option is not open to all. Can we, Jünger asks, remain on board our careering ocean liner, and retain our autonomy, by strengthening our roots in the ‘primal ground’ of Being which we find by discovering our self? The means Jünger suggests for achieving this are myth, religion, the imagination, intuition, and even esotericism; Jünger has a surprisingly early mention of Gurdjieff. All of these are ways of contacting and drawing on the deep, primal forces that lie within us and which our increasingly standardized existence seeks to obscure. It is only through our ‘victory over fear’ – engendered by daily doses of ‘the news’ - that the threat of catastrophe diminishes, and we best achieve this by entering the forest’s path and following it to its end. It is then that we can determine whether freedom is more important to us than mere existence, can decide whether how we are is more important than that we are. As Jünger writes ‘the edge of the abyss is a good place to seek your own counsel’ – he is nothing if not quotable – and these days its seems the abyss is everywhere. But, as Jünger tells us, so is the forest, that ‘harbour’ and ‘homeland’ we all carry within us. Read this book. By entering the forest we may yet find our way out of the woods.
The Forest Passage
High quality UFO sighting in Wales with chemtrail op in the background sky.
On the fringe, you hear a lot about "they", but no one tells you exactly who their own "they" are.
This video clears up some of that confusion.
Be sure to check out Darth Vader's campaign for presidency of the Ukraine. Could someone here arrange for him to receive one of those
Darth Vader voice changers?
By the way, I am not anonymous, and never have been.
I have had a standing offer of ten thousand dollars for Randi or any one else who can show any proof that I wanted no photos taken. That is the blatant lie reason Randi posted at his site to weasel out of my challenge for his million dollars after he had already accepted me as a challenger. Provable truth is I insisted we video tape the testing in case I would need the video if I had to take him to court to collect after I passed his test. Since video takes 30 pics per second I wanted hundreds of photos taken. I have posted my complaints on skeptic sites and all I get in return are insults, name calling, vilification. My public offer of ten grand still stands to anyone who is stupid enough to take me up on the offer, it is really simple we each give ten thousand dollars to an unbiased third party, perhaps an off duty police officer, I present my evidence they present theirs, it shouldn't take more than a minute or two, winner goes home with all the money. So far no takers. When I made the offer to Michael Shermer he yelled at me that he was not interested in what I had about Randi. He calls himself a skeptic but he really is nothing more than a bootlicking toady for Randi, I told him as much. Same for Grothe, and all the other Randibots.
In this blog I would like to outline some of the traits of both groups. not just how they differ but also how they can behave in an indistinguishable way. in other words how they are the same.
the skeptical community is something that we are all aware of. you have to be if you are to make any sense of any of this. I myself seem to have constructed a filter i my head where anything "skeptical" is treated as suspect.
because these people seem to have motives for attacking and denning the paranormal. these people are not really interested in finding out the truth but more in advancing their own world-view.
but they are not that much different than the otherside. the motives are different and the result is also different but the application is somewhat the same on many levels.
I think one of the reasons that I am writing this is because mainly I am very bored and have nothing better to do. but also becuase its something that no one else seems to have written about in much detail. (most people try to highlight how to two are different)
it also pisses me off quite a bit too. by this I mean both sides claim to be different but both say the same thing and you don't know whos side to take. (skeptics of course remind us of how intellecually gifted they are).....its really funny to see randi do this in some of his videos.
anyway moving on...
some traits they share are...
. both have have claims of victimisation
yes yes we know how horribly persecuted the paranormal researches are. but the skeptics have (perhaps wrongfully) made similer claims in different forms.
. both have made claims of being a minority group
again I know how the main researches are out-numbered by a thousand to one by materialists. but the skeptical group has also made similer claims. perhaps pointing to the fact that most people do believe in some form of paranormal activity.
. both have superiority claims
the skeptical commnity seems to do this more. they use words like "critical thinking" "skeptical" and "objective" to cement their superiorty in a much more soft and subtle way. when they want to do it in a more loud way the usually call the opposition "woomesters" "cranks" "charlatans" and many other abusive names. some main skeptics even encourage such childish ways. but the paranormal group also has a weaker form of the the same behaver. sometimes the word "open-minded" is used in an offecive stance. but also they seem to attack the skeptics world-view calling it bleak (which it kind of is) and horrible.
. both practise wishful-thinking
skeptards (came up with a funny name for them needed to get it out of my system. when will I get another chance?) are offen fond of stating that everyone who thinks differently to them is a practitioner in wishful-thinking. this is true because everyone does including the skeptics themselves. they seem to have an attachment to their world-view (it comforts them). which is one of the reasons they defend there world-view so vigoriusly. skeptics themselves also use ancdotes and then the next minute ancdotes are invaild.
. both make claims on the evidence
this is the one that really pisses me off. is when both groups claim that the evidence supports their view when both views are contredictry. this is very confusing and requires that the person has a basic understanding of how science and evidence works inorder to get anywhere. but it makes the search for the truth that much more harder and nebulous.
so there are some of the main ways the two groups share the same traits. based largly on personal experience. so what do you think? please leave a comment below to start another mindless ( but productive) discussion.
I didn't know Hobie personally, but I do appreciate that he changed the
world for the better, at least on the "retail" level.
Many people got to enjoy surfing and sailing because of him. Not all of
those people (the surfers) are particularly nice, but still - Hobie made a
fun lifestyle available for many more people. I think that is a very
It is proving to be a sad week for magicians since Steve Moore has passed.
Steve Moore worked well with Alan Moore (no relation) on a number of comic projects as well as some more esoteric projects. It was all to culminate with the Moore's "Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic".
Alan Moore wrote and narrated "Unearthing" as a psychogeographic tribute to Steve several years ago; like all of Alan's work it is well worth checking out.
Steve Moore will be massively missed not least because he was one of the founders of Fortean Times.
Sad days but a glass to you Steve Moore.