Aleister Crowley: Big Papa 666
Gathering Stasis -
“Ware, nor of good nor ill, what aim hath act? Without its climax, death, what savour hath Life? an impeccable machine, exact He paces an inane and pointless path To glut brute appetites, his sole content How tedious were he fit to comprehend Himself! More, this our noble element Of fire in nature, love in spirit, unkenned Life hath no spring, no axle, and no end. His body a bloody-ruby radiant With noble passion, sun-souled Lucifer Swept through the dawn colossal, swift aslant On Eden's imbecile perimeter. He blessed nonentity with every curse And spiced with sorrow the dull soul of sense, Breathed life into the sterile universe, With Love and Knowledge drove out innocence The Key of Joy is disobedience.”
That was a Hymn to Lucifer, by Aleister Crowley. Big Papa 666, the wickedest man in the world. Today, we're going to explore how an Evangelical Christian little boy grew up to be known as “The Great Beast,” even by his own mother. What do you know about Crowley, Bryson? ____ Yeah, so Aleistar Crowley was a poet, occult leader, mountaineer, ceremonial magician, painter, and novelist. Born as Edward Alexander Crowley in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire in England on October, 12th 1875 to Edward Crowley and Emily Bertha Bishop. Edward, the father, was an engineer but had shares in a family brewery, Crowley’s Alton Ales, which allowed him to retire before Crowley was born. Due to the time period, I don’t think his mom worked. I can’t find any work history for her, anyways. Both of his parents were devoted in their own way as evangelical Christians, though his father was more so. Working as a travelling preacher during Crowley’s early life, he would also read a chapter from the bible every single day after breakfast. Edward and Emily would go on to give birth to a baby girl, who I believe was born in 1880 and died in 1880, when Crowley was just 5 years old. In 1881, the family would move to Redhill, Surrey - also in England. When Crowley was 8, he was sent to H.T. Habershon’s Evangelical Boarding School in Hastings. God, I miss Hastings, dude. He would then go on to transfer to Ebor Preparatory School in Cambridge, ran by Reverend Henry D’Arcy Champney. Crowley would then go on to describe the Reverend as a sadist. In March of 1887, his father died from… get this, tongue cancer. Crowley loved and respected his father, he described him as his hero and friend. This marked a big turning point in his life. He inherited a third of his father’s wealth, and began misbehaving in school. Champney would go on to harshly punish Crowley for his behaviour. His family pulled Crowley out of school when he was diagnosed with Albuminuria, which is a sign of kidney disease and means that you have too much albumin in your urine. Crowley would go on to attend Malvern College and Tonbridge School for only a few terms before he left those as well, as he despised them. Crowley had begun to get extremely skeptical of Christianity. Questioning inconsensities in the bible and pointing them out to his teachers, and rebelling from what was expected from a Christian. He began smoking and masturbating, a big big no no. He also began having sex with prostitutes, eventually contacting gonorrhea. Completely off topic, but did you know John Harvey Kellog made Frosted Flakes to try to prevent masturbation? Yeah, it was marketed as the "healthy, ready-to-eat anti-masturbatory morning meal.” Anyways, after he contracted gonorrhea his mom became tired of his antics and he was sent to live with a tutor in Eastborne, where he became interested in chemistry, chess, poetry, and mountaineering. In October of 1895, Edward Crowley officially changed his name to Aleister Crowley. This is a quote on his reasoning for changing his name: “For many years I had loathed being called Alick, partly because of the unpleasant sound and sight of the word, partly because it was the name by which my mother called me. Edward did not seem to suit me and the diminutives Ted or Ned were even less appropriate. Alexander was too long and Sandy suggested tow hair and freckles. I had read in some book or other that the most favourable name for becoming famous was one consisting of a dactyl followed by a spondee, as at the end of a hexameter: like Jeremy Taylor. Aleister Crowley fulfilled these conditions and Aleister is the Gaelic form of Alexander. To adopt it would satisfy my romantic ideals.” He also began a three year course at Trinity College in Cambridge, where he studied English Literature. He was president of the chess club and fell in love with poetry there as well. He visited the Alps to climb every year from 1894-1898. In 1896, he had his first mystical experience while on holiday in December of 1896 in Stockholm. Big Papa 666 had his first gay sexual experience, which is what most biographers assume is his described mystical experience. He had always been with women up until this point, mostly prostitutes, but this is when he started expressing his bisexuality - even though it was illegal at the time. While he was sleeping around at Cambridge, he had contact syphilis. So, still in college, he’s already contacted syphilis and gonorrhea. What a little devil. So this sexual encounter with another man, led him to realize he was bisexual and give him courage to start acting upon his feelings towards men. Crowley entered into his first relationship with another man in October of 1897 when he met Herbert Charles Pollitt, president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club. They would eventually break up because Herbert didn’t share Crowley's interest in Western esotericism. Crowley would openly admit that he deeply regretted this break up for many years. Also, in 1897 Crowley travelled to Saint Petersburg in Russia as he was considering a diplomatic career, but that very quickly changed when Crowley became ill. It was a brief illness, but this caused him to consider mortality and the, and I quote, “futility of the human endeavour,” and he started to dabble in that dank ass occultism. He forgot all about his diplomatic career and picked up the books “The Book of Black Magic and Pacts” by A.E. Waite’s and “The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary” by Karl von Eckartshausen in 1898. He also published several poems throughout this year, and left Cambridge in July of 1898 despite not obtaining a degree. And now, we start to get into the secret societies. In August of 1898, Crowley met a chemist by the name of Julian L. Baker in Zermatt, Switzerland. They discussed their interest in alchemy and went back to London, where Julian would introduce Crowley to his brother-in-law George Cecil Jones. George was a member of the occult society the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. By November, Crowley was inducted in by the occults leader. The Golden Dawn system was based on hierarchy and initiation The "Golden Dawn" was the first of three Orders, although all three are often collectively referred to as the "Golden Dawn". The First Order taught esoteric philosophy based on the Hermetic Qabalah and personal development through study and awareness of the four classical elements as well as the basics of astrology, tarot divination, and geomancy. The Second, or "Inner" Order, the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis, taught magic, including scrying, astral travel, and alchemy. The Third Order was that of the "Secret Chiefs", who were said to be highly skilled; they supposedly directed the activities of the lower two orders by spirit communication with the Chiefs of the Second Order. Crowley, of course, was inducted into the first outer order. Crowley moved into his own apartment and eventually a fellow member of the Golden Dawn would bunk with him. Allan Bennet, a senior member of the cult, would go on to teach Crowley more about ceremonial magic and the ritual use of drugs until he moved to South Asia to study Buddhism. In November of 1899 Crowley purchased a home called the Boleskine House in Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness in Scotland. Crowley was soon ready to move up in the Golden Dawn, but they refused to move him into the second circle due to his bisexuality and libertine lifestyle. He would go to one of the founding members of the Golden Dawn and he personally inducted him into the second circle, which was a highly disliked decision. Crowley, his mistress Elaine Simpson, and the founding member began a feud with the London branch of the order. They tried to seize one of the lodgings from them, and was refused by the court, leading them to be isolated from the rest of the cult. Crowley was very active over the next few years, in and out of relationships and affairs, traveling to Mexico, India, and Paris, climbing mountains and writing poems and stories, further studying and experimenting with ceremonial magic, contracting malaria, influenza, snow blindness while climbing a mountain, and eventually getting married in 1903. This wasn’t a love of marriage, at first, but a marriage to one of his friends’ sister out of convenience, to prevent her from entering an arranged marriage. The friend was Gerald Kelly, and his wife was Rose Editch Kelly. This would damage Crowley’s friendship with Gerald, and didn’t sit well with the rest of the Kelly family, but the two fell in love. While on honeymoon in February 1904, the pair went to Cairo, Egypt. This is where shit starts to get wild. They had claimed to be a prince and princess to rent an apartment, which Crowley set up a temple in. He began attempting to call on Egyption deities. Crowley would go on to claim that during the process Rose had told him that “they are waiting for you.” She would explain eventually that “they” is the god Horus, and on March 20th of 1904 told him “the Equinox of the gods has come.” She then led him to a nearby museum where she showed him a seventh century stone slab known as the “Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu.” The exhibit’s number was 666. Crowley would go on to refer to the stele as “The Stele of Revering.” On April 8th, he apparently heard a disembodied voice that claimed to be Aiwass, the messenger of Horus, which he claimed to write down word for word what the voice told him. He called this “Liber AL vel Legis” or The Book of the Law. The book claimed that humanity was entering a new Aeon, and that Crowley would be its prophet. The moral code of this book was “do what thou wilt shall be the whole law,” and if you should follow this, you will find your Will. This book and philosophy became the cornerstone of Crowley’s new religion, Thelema. Crowley was unsure of what to do with the book, and he highly resented it at times. He would ignore the instructions, which told him to steal the Stele of Revering from the museum, fortifying his own island, and translating the book into all known languages. Instead, he sent typescripts to several occultists he knew, and put the manuscript away and ignored it. In 1905, Crowley came to believe Mathers, the Golden Dawn leader that inducted him into the order, was using magic against him. Without purchasing his biography, I can’t seem to find out why he thought this, but the relationship between the two broke down. On July 28th, 1905 Rose and Crowley introduced their first child into the world. Again, he was pretty busy over the next few years. Attempting to climb Kanchenjunga which was widely known as the most treacherous mountains to climb, which he got several people killed during the expedition, he established a publishing company and published several poem books, big-game hunting, performing several rituals to attempt to contact Aiwass with Elaine Simpson, traveling to New York, Japan, and Canada before turning home in 1907. Upon his arrival, he learned some very unfortunate news. Lilith had contracted typhoid fever and passed away, which he blamed on Rose’s alcoholism - although I find that very funny, because Crowley very regularly uses drugs to perform magic rituals. But no, his wife drinking is the problem. I mean, yeah sure she was the one with Rose at the time but come on dude. Anyways, Crowley fell into a depression, because. You know. His daughter just died. His marriage in shambles, and struggling with this loss, Crowley began to experience health issues and had to undergo several surgeries. He had affairs with a couple people and then his wife gave birth to their second daughter, Lola Zaza in February of 1907. With his old mentor George Cecil Jones, Crowley would perform the Abramelin ritual at the Ashdown Park Hotel in Coulson. Crowley claimed when doing this, he attained samadhi. Or union with Godhead. When doing these rituals he was on hash, and would later claim the drug was an aide to mysticism. By this time, Crowley was beginning to struggle with financials. His inheritance was finally running out. He began to make money by taking in students to train them in the occult, one of which was a man named Victor Neuburg who Crowley had begun sleeping with. So that’s weird. In October and November of 1907, he claimed to have been contacted by Aiwass again and he would write two more texts “Liber 7” and “Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente,” which would end up as The Holy Books of Thelema. Crowley would write 7 more books to end up in this holy text, as well as some horror short stories, an autobiography, poems, and more occult bullshit by the end of year. After finishing the holy texts in November of 1907, Crowley and Jones decided to establish their own occult order it was called A∴A∴, or Arcanum Arcanorum. The groups headquarters were located in London and borrowed a lot from The Golden Dawn, with his own Thelamic beliefs as a basis. In 1909 Crowley finally divorced his wife, claiming her alcoholism was the strain, and his daughter would live with her until 1911 when Rose was institutionalized due to how bad her alcoholism truly did get. Between those two years, though, Crowley traveled a lot again, performing sex magic and many other rituals including a blood sacrifice. When he arrived back in London from all of this, he found out the leader of the Golden Dawn was suing him due to publishing Golden Dawn secrets in “The Equinox,” a biannual periodical for AA. The court, however, ruled in favor of Crowley and he gained widespread fame for being a Satanist and practicing human sacrifices, though neither was the case, you can bet your ass Big Papa 666 reveled in this and enjoyed every moment of it. Due to his rising fame, many people were attracted to AA and the occult gained many more members. Also, surprise surprise, Crowley met another lover, an Australian violinist by the name Leila Waddell. Anyways, Crowley wanted to appeal to as many people as he could and developed The Rites of Artemis, a public display of magic and symbolism featuring members of the AA personifying many deities. It was first performed at the AA headquarters, where Crowley gave the crowd fruit punch laced with peyote, a hallucinogen, to enhance the experience. It was received fairly well by attendees and the press. In 1910, he would attempt something similar called the Rites of Eleusis, which wasn’t received as well. The results were very mixed and one review would call Crowley “one of the most blasphemous and cold-blooded villains of modern times." In early 1912 Crowley published “The Book of Lies” which a German Occultist by the name Theodor Reuss would go to Crowley and claim he had published secrets from his own occult order, The Ordo Templi Orientis, or O.T.O. for short. Crowley convinced him the similarities were a coincidence and the two became friends. Theodor would then appoint Crowley as the head of the British branch and he adopted the holy name Baphomet, and was proclaimed “X° Supreme Rex and Sovereign Grand Master General of Ireland, Iona, and all the Britons". What a fucking title, man. With Theodor’s permission, Crowley would begin changing some of the rituals the O.T.O. which were based a lot off of freemasonry, and incorporated Thelemite elements, which proved to be controversial within the group. Crowley was very fascinated with the group’s use of sex magic and pretty much immediately devised a working that included anal. Hey, the man knows what he likes. In 1913 Crowley traveled to Moscow, Russia where he produced a play for six weeks, however there are claims that this was cover and that he was sent by British Intelligence to spy on Russian revolutionists. We’ll get into the spy claims more later. By 1914, Crowley was pretty damn broke. He relied mostly on AA donations and payments made to O.T.O. He climbed the swiss alps during the time when WW1 broke out, and suffered from phlebitis, and inflammation of the veins. After he recovered, he set sail to the good ole’ US of A. Arriving in New York City, he moved into a hotel and began working for Vanity Fair and doing freelance work for the astrologer Evangeline Adams. He continued his occult workings and experimenting with sex magic through masturbation, female prostitutes, and male clients from a Turkish bathouse. While in New York, Crowley claimed to be of Irish descent and professed support for Germany in WW1 against Britain. He became apart of the pro-Germany movement and was hired on to write for The Fatherland, a German Propaganda paper. However, Crowley was a double agent, actually working for British Intelligence at this time. He wrote hyperbolic articles in The Fatherland and performed publicity stunts in an attempt to make Germans look crazy and ridiculous to Americans. Supposedly, he encouraged Germans to destroy the Lusitana claiming this would make the US stay out of the war, but actually hoping this would make the US fight on Britain’s side. In 1916, Crowley took a “magical retirement” to a cabin by Lake Pasquaney in New Hampshire, which was owned by Evangeline. He did lots of drugs and performed several rituals, after which he proclaimed himself “Master Therion.” In 1917, his mother passed away. In 1918 Crowley went on a magical retreat in the wilderness of Esopus Island on the Hudson River where he painted Thelemite slogans on the riversides and cliffs, and claimed he had visions of his past lives where he was Ge Xuan, Pope Alexander VI, Alessandro Cagliostro, and Eliphas Levi. In December of 1919, he moved back to London. Upon arrival, he found he was coming under attack by the tabloid John Bull which labeled him as “traitorous scum.” His friends who were aware of his espionage work attempted to convince him to sue, but he refused. Crowley began to suffer from asthma, and a doctor prescribed him… Heroin for it, which he obviously became addicted to. In April of 2020, Crowley began renting and old Villa in Sicily, Italy called the Villa of Santa Barbara and established this as the Abbey of Thelema, where he hoped to gather a community of Thelamites. Heroin came to dominate his life at this point, and cocaine began to erode his naval cavity. Regardless of this, new followers of Thelema would still arrive at the abbey and Crowley would teach them. One of these followers was a film star, Jane Wolfe, and became Crowley’s secretary. In February of 1922, Crowley went to Paris on a vacation in an attempt to kick his heroin addiction, unsuccessfully. A married couple, Raoul Loveday and Betty May moved into the abbey, and though Raoul was devoted to Crowley, Betty hated him. Raoul would eventually drink from a nearby polluted stream giving him a liver infection and resulting in his death in February of 1923. Betty would return to London and tell the press activities that went on, claiming that she was made to drink the blood of a sacrificed cat and that they were required to cut themselves with Razor Blades with any use of the pronoun I. John Bull would go on to claim Crowley was “the wickedest man alive” and “a man we want to hang.” Crowley considered this slanderous but didn’t have money to sue. So, John Bull continued their attacks and eventually the then fascist government of Italy heard word of Crowley’s actions, and he was given a deportation notice in April 1923. Without him, the abbey closed. Crowley went to Tunis, Tunisia where his health began to decline more, and he attempted to give up heroin unsuccessfully again. Crowley met with more Thelamites and employed a young boy, Mohammad ben Brahim, as his servant. Crowley went with him on a retreat where in Nefta where they performed acts of sex magic together. In January of 1924, Crowley underwent several nasal cavity operations. According to Crowley, Theodor Reuss had named him leader of the O.T.O. upon his death, though this was challenged by a leader of the German O.T.O. This caused for a split between the order, where many key figures supported both men. In 1926, Crowley moved back to Paris and went through a string of lovers. Well, I mean, his whole life is a string of lovers, but regardless, he did a lot of sex magic and was plagued with declining health due to his heroin and cocaine use. In December 1928, Crowley was deported from France too. They disliked his reputation and feared he was a German spy, due to this he moved back to Britain… again and married… again in August 1929, a girl named Nicaraguan Maria Teresa Sanchez so she could come back to Britain with him. He then attempted to publish an autobiography Crowley’s Confessions through Mandrake Press, though they went into liquidation before the entirety of his autobiography could be published. In 1930 Crowley faked his own death, but reappeared three weeks later in Berlin at the opening of his art exhibit. Though few of his artworks sold, it was regarded favourably. In 1931 he found another new lover, Bertha Busch, which was a violent relationship on both sides, both physically assaulting each other. He had many affairs with men and women in the city and in 1932 be befriended a communist by the name Gerald Hamilton who he then lived with. Though Crowley met with many people on the far left at this time, it’s rumored that he was still working as a British spy. Crowley moved back to London and began to sue many people for libel, some of which he won, some of which he lost. He lost too many and declared bankruptcy in 1935, though he did garner more fame during these lawsuits. Crowley would go on to develop a friendship with Deidre Patricia Doherty, who offered to bear his child. The child was named Randall Gair, though Crowley uh, “nicknamed him?” Aleister Atatürk. Randall lived until 2002, where he died in a car crash at the age of 65. That’s so fucking wild to me. Anyways, Crowley was intrigued by the rise Nazism and was halfway convinced he could convert Hitler to Thelema, until the nazi’s broke up the German branch of the O.T.O, which Crowley then labeled Hitler as a black magician. When WW2 broke out, Crowley offered his services to the Naval Intelligence Division but was declined. He was still associated with several figures in Britain’s intelligence agency, and claims to be behind the “V for Victory” sign first used by the BBC, though this isn’t proven. In 1940, his asthma worsened and he went hard in the heroin again as his british supplied medicine was unavailable. The next few years are pretty uneventful, Crowley moved to Hastings in Sussex and took up boardings in Netherwood where he would die on December 1st 1947 from chronic bronchitis at the age of 72. Only about 12 people went to his funeral where they read excerpts from his teachings, and the press labelled it as a black mass. His ashes were sent to the US and was buried in his garden in New Hampshire. Crowley left quite a legacy behind when he passed. Though controversial, you cannot deny his influence on the world at the time. In 2002, crowley was named the 73rd greatest briton of all time. Thelema continued to grow and develop, in 1969 the O.T.O was reactivated in California. Crowley also influenced several other Western Esoteric Traditions, including becoming a prominent figure in the modern Pagan community. Crowley also left a mark on pop culture, several books were published with characters based off him such as The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley, and he was included on the cover art of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, his motto “Do what thou will” was inscribed onto they vinyl of Led Zepellin’s Led Zeppelin 3. Jimmy Page, co-founder of Led Zeppelin, bought Boleskin, Crowley’s house, in 1971, David Bowie wrote songs with lyrics referring to him, and Ozzy Osbourne straight up wrote a song called Mr. Crowley. So… in conclusion, Big Papa 666 was a wild fucking dude.