Monday, May 30, 2011

Why is Crowley taboo

One of the comments to my previous post (about having read Crowley on occasion) brought up the question of why some Golden Dawn members and leaders loathe Aleister Crowley. (I am using the word "loathe" because I like the word, and I think their feelings go well beyond "dislike" and "hate.") Here are some of my current thoughts about the question.

One, Crowley is a hard act to follow. The man produced a lot of material. And he was producing material until the end of his life.

Two, Crowley was an occultist and seeker all his adult life. It was a lifestyle, not a temporary act with a definite goal on the end.

Three, Crowley published---a lot. He also stole material and published it as his own. Plus, he produced new things too.

Four, Crowley followers are not good followers. Thelemics are more goats than sheep. Some of them are slightly dark (possible understatement), and all of them are argumental.

Five, Crowley was anti-secrecy. At least when it comes to the teachings.

Six, Crowley was anti-guru and Order. The AA is built more like a resistance movement than a fraternal Order.

Seven, Crowley thought his system was better than the original Golden Dawn. And maybe, he was a sense.

Eight, his followers tend to think that his way of doing things are the best way. And they loudly say so.

Nine, his system produces people who declare themselves prophets. They tend to declare new laws. Thelema and the Book of the Law was merely the beginning of heretics and radicals.

Ten, Crowley was truly running a non-profit organization. Crowley often had a real day-job.

Bottom-line, you do not want people who follow Crowley or use him as a good example in your organization. Especially if you are looking for sheep that need looking after. Thelemites are dangerous to anyone managing a "shut up and follow" Order.


dirkt said...

one, two and three, i agree.

four… there are actually a lot of sheep in the thelemic community, besides the goats. mostly, they're not "dark" at all. that's just an image to polish for some of them.

five… agree in part. you've to look through his deceptions, codes, digressions, ironies and jokes, to get some of the teachings, that he considered worthwhile protecting from the dim witted. but they were allways in plain sight, if you know what to look for. sometimes, a casual footnote will tell you more about his actual thoughts on a given subject, than the rambling chapter you just finished.

six… that may have been so in his early years, but changed as he stylized himself as a prophet & founder of his own private religion. on the other hand, maybe this whole thelema (as a religion) thing, is just another practical joke along the lines of "gold bricks"? who knows? The decentralized AA sytem failed. it did not produce enough adepts in the higher grades, to establish an unbroken teacher-student line from grade to grade, as AC intended. maybe he sat the requirements for attaining a grade a bit too high, for the average student? the OTO was a whole different business^^

seven… concerning the AA system, it was definitivley an evolution… in a sense.

eight… many actually don't. bad reputation for the "matured" thelemic community.

nine… it does! and most of them are megalomanic idiots, AC would have eaten for breakfast.

ten… after he had spent his considerable inheritance, many a pound of his students and friends ended up financing his not inexpensive lifestyle. although he took some jobs as a magazine editor or tried to make some money from his writings, he did only so, if no simpler means of getting money were available. an exeption may have been the publication of his thoth tarot deck, towards the end of his life.

bottom line, many in the contemporary GD communtiy consider AC a bad role model and a traitor, while many in the contemporary thelemic community consider the GD an reanimated zombie from the old aeon. concerning their modern organized structures…. don't get me started ;)

Robert said...

I would be very wary of anyone that told me I couldn't read books in the present. I'd be most concerned and likely avoid anyone so insecure as to have concerns about what I have read in the past. An occultist should be able to listen but being a sheep is undesirable.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Also, Crowley was matter-of-factly anti-Christian in a way that many still find very threatening.

Peregrin said...

Hi Morgan,

your posts here are raising some interesting questions for me. Thanks.

While Crowley is not Taboo in any of the classes/groups I run, I do counsel caution around him for several reasons (similarly I counsel caution around even my beloved Dion Fortune for several reasons).

There is no doubt Crowley was a genius in more ways than one. However, there seems little doubt to my mind he also displayed a lack of basic humility, compassion, love and understanding I would expect from a senior adept. Then again, so do most current senior adepts :)

Naturally Crowley assumed his work would replace the Golden Dawn in what he called the New Aeon. He also articulated in some writings that this new current was antagonistic towards the ‘older’ Golden Dawn and would seek to destroy it. For this reason I find it hard to see how both traditions can be worked together. Of course one can simple mine Crowley’s writings for gems of wisdom, which is a useful exercise.

Whilst Crowley’s intellect and energy cannot be doubted, his understanding of the Golden Dawn was often limited. For example, he commented that the four outer Elemental Grades were of ‘little magical interest, value or importance’, a mistake often repeated by other magicians since. In reality these four grades provide the bedrock and the framework for the inner order work of transforming the magician and building a life based on light, love and service. It is during these grades the magician’s ego and self-focus is worked upon and purified. Crowley wrote in his dairy that he was still having difficulty with his ego years after these grades, when he had in fact assumed the initiatory equivalent of Christ himself.

My main concern however is that Crowley’s tradition was and is infused with elements arising from the man Crowley himself, not the higher principles. Crowley’s holy books of Thelema glorify his hatred of Christianity, stemming from his Plymouth Brethern upbringing; adherent’s to his system faced (and some still do) his home rather the traditional direction of light, the East; he added an extra degree to the traditional OTO Order that utilised anal sex, simply because he was fond of sodomising and being sodomised (see Not of, course there is anything wrong with anal sex per se.

However, this changing and adapting and innovating from the established esoteric sources of wisdom for personal reasons is something we need to do with care; if the personal reasons stem from the unregenerate aspects of ourselves we risk corruption not transformation of the tradition.

Finally, I think you must have a better class of goat in the US; most of the Crowleyans I’ve met in Oz are very limited in common sense, deficient in intellect, and not worthy to wipe his bum and seem simply out to shock mummy with their ‘occult’ antics. Thanks :)

Imperator David Griffin said...

I must first reiterate that the HOGD/AO has always embraced Thelemites in our midst, as we have equally embraced Pagans and brothers and sisters of all faiths.

That said, it is no secret that I have an exaggerated antipathy for Aleister Crowley - One that can not be explained merely by the fact that he was the quintessential traitor, actively trying to destroy the Golden Dawn.

My personal grudge against Crowley goes way beyond hatred. I truly detest the man like no other.

In fact, on my first trip to Egypt, I made it a point to burn Crowley's Book of the Law in the city where that pestilent sack of puss had been written to begin with.

Perhaps it is the fact that, despite my hatred for Crowley, there have been so many parallels in our occult careers. As was Crwoley's, my own 5=6 was marked with schism. When attacked from all sides in the 90's, I found strength in my alliance with my Chief Adept in Paris. Then there was the ritual I performed all night in the King's Chamber during the first conscious Uranus-Neptune conjunction in the history of mankind in February, 1992.

Even now, I can't get rid of the specter of the scoundrel Crowley who haunts me, since my mature magical career involves the popularization of higher sexual mysteries and the promulgation of a new spiritual current at the beginning of a new Millennium.

I have always held and will always hold Thelema as complete and utter bullshit.

Nonetheless, there were glimmers in it of the spiritual current in ascendence today...

The PAGAN RENAISSANCE at the beginning of the new Millennium!

... And the revelation of the ancient Arte Eccelsa - THE SUBLIME ART - the Pre-Pagan Shamanic path of complete and ultimate personal and spiritual liberation that I will for the rest of my life espouse.

dirkt said...


to criticize something, does not necessarily imply a lack of understanding. AC had just another approach to the "elemental grades", than the GD. the GD puts heavy emphasis on the initiation ritulas itselfs, believing them to be effective on a metaphysical level. AC rejected this idea wholesale, and instead deviced a series of practices, that engaged the student in training his body, subconscious drives, intellect and emotions. so, what he rejected wasn't the importance of the elemental grades itself, but the importance of their corresponding initiation rituals as metaphysical means to an end. how effective this practices were, is jet another question.
and it's evident, that he never engaged in this practices himself.. as he delusionally thought, to have mastered this grades already, by the time he developed his AA system.

Imperator David Griffin said...

BTW, I got a ruler across my knuckles yesterday from our family archeologist, Aegeria, for that "Pre-Pagan" remark. I stand corrected.

L'Arte Eccelsa (The Sublime Art) is a "Pagan" Shamanic path of personal and spiritual liberation.

(Picky academics!)

Sincerus Renatus... said...

Morgan, I believe you are generalizing a bit here, not only of Thelemites / Crowleyans but also of the Golden Dawn Orders (I wonder what Temples you have been visiting?).

In my experience, the O.T.O. and the A:.A:. creates quite different kind of initiates. I get the sense from speaking with a few members of the A:.A:. that they rely a lot on the student-teacher relation for their traning. The sex, drugs and rock-and-roll mentality, often associated with Thelemites, seldom can be attached to the A:.A:. initiate, IMHO.

Non of them, again IMHO, needs a Golden Dawn organization for their Thelemic quest. Each to his own.

Although I second L.e.S' statement that we in the H.O.G.D./A+O doesn't see any major problem with multiple membership per se, my experience of Thelemites in the Golden Dawn (since almost two decades in the occult community) is that they don't put their heart into the G.D. system is expected of any initiate, or the particualar G.D. Order of which they are members, placing their membership in the O.T.O. or any other of the Thelemic organizations, or personal Thelemic Magick, above the Golden Dawn Order / Tradition.

Sometimes, it feels that some of them only want to do a "Crowley thing", i.e. being members of a G.D. Temple just because their prophet had his formative magical training there, then after a while respectfully turning their back to it in their further Thelemic quest of the New Aeon.

But then we have the other variety (which is in a minority) which finds membership in the Golden Dawn as more allowing than the (as they find it, dogmatic culture of the) O.T.O. in expressing their unique individuality. Quite ironic ;-)

In Licht, Leben und Liebe,

Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

Yes, I am generalizing. I wanted a quick post that would make people think for two seconds about why Crowley is taboo in some circles and Orders. Honestly, I find the resulting comments to be very interesting, even when they are pointing out that I am completely wrong.