Edward Alexander Crowley, born October 12, 1875 (in order to redeem the world from
the disasters begun on that day in 1492, he claimed), led a life of mysticism, occultism,
adventure, deception, and outrageous bohemianism. At the age of 23, in 1898, he joined
the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult society dedicated to Gnostic and
Cabalistic techniques of "spiritual advancement"—or what we nowadays call consciousness
expansion. The Golden Dawn methods that Crowley mastered included attainment of those
borderline states variously called "out of body experience," "guided visualization,"
or "ESP" and the assumption of god-
Between 1900 and 1909 Crowley traveled widely and studied, sometimes at length and
sometimes only briefly, in such non-
In 1904, in Cairo, Crowley experienced a psychic revolution from which he emerged with "Liber Al" (also called "The Book of the Law"), a prophetic and perplexing document he always claimed he had "received," not written. At first, Crowley did not like the experience or the book, and managed to largely ignore them for nearly ten years. After 1914, however, he felt increasingly under their spell, and eventually he devoted the rest of his life to the "mission" the book imposed upon him. After 1919, he spoke of the Cairo experience as an encounter with a superhuman intelligence; one of his disciples, Kenneth Grant, has claimed the communicating entity emanated from the system of the double star, Sinus, while another student, Israel Regardie, prefers to say Crowley reached depths of the human evolutionary unconscious unknown to either Freud or Jung.
Whoever or whatever Crowley contacted, its major messages became the closest thing to dogmas in his largely agnostic mysticism: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." "Love is the law, love under will." "Every man and every woman is a star." Liber Al also foretells wars and revolutions undreamed of by Crowley's conscious mind or by any other 1904 intellectual, but offers a promise of a new society rising from the universal wreckage somewhere in the future. Its last paragraph tells you that its message "is revealed and concealed." Revealed to those ready to receive it and concealed from others, perhaps?
During both World War I and World War II, Crowley appears to have worked for British Intelligence, although conflicting evidence suggests that he also worked for German Intelligence, at least in the first conflict. This mystery, and the unknown identity of the power or entity unleashed in Cairo, has made Crowley a central figure in most of the religious and demonological conspiracy theories of our time.
Early in his career, Crowley changed his first name to Aleister, so that the Cabalistic "number" of his name would add to 666, identified with the Antichrist in the Revelation of St. John. He also delighted in frightening, baffling, and playing sadistic jokes on the orthodox and gullible. Thus, his reputation as a Satanist definitely does not result entirely from the paranoias of the religious right; he deliberately played the role at times, although always in an absurd and satirical manner.
In addition to "respectable" mystical practices from the traditions mentioned, Crowley
also pioneered the study of shamanic/ psychedelic states and used any and all mind-
Although he lived the second half of his life in acute poverty, Crowley also appears
in many conspiracy theories as an ally of the international bankers, the Illuminati,
or other world-
Aleister Crowley died in 1947, at the age of 72, an amazing feat of longevity considering the shocks and strains he put on both his mind and body. He had written dozens of volumes of poetry, a few novels, scores of mystic essays, and had many achievements in the fields of chess, hunting, and mountain climbing, including the highest climb on the Himalayan peak K2 ever accomplished without oxygen tanks (1904; 23,000 feet).
See also: Freemasonry, Golden Dawn, Illuminati, Ordo Templi Orientis, Rosicrucianism.
The Eye in the Triangle, by Israel Regardie, New Falcon Press, Phoenix, Ariz, 1970
Portable Darkness, ed. by Scott Michaelson, Harmony Books, New York, 1989