The Life of Aleister Crowley & “The Mark of the Beast”
There is no debating the fact, Aleister Crowley is the most famous occultist in modern history. However, along with being an occultist, Crowley was also a poet, ceremonial magician, drug addict and sex fiend.
Throughout his life, Aleister Crowley would gain hoards of followers. He also had a knack for collecting enemies wherever he traveled.
Aleister Crowley was said to be evil incarnate, have an unimaginably large ego, possess genius level intelligence, be a messiah of anti-Christianity and maybe above all else, be a raving lunatic. To be sure, there are few people in modern history who have generated as much controversy as Aleister Crowley.
To understand Aleister Crowley we must start at the Very beginning!
Born Edward Alexander Crowley in 1875, he found himself surrounded by the most devout Christians in Britain, the complete opposite of the people he would attract later in life.
His father was an evangelist, and at first, young Edward Alexander Crowley found himself entirely devoted to the religion. However, once he lost his father at the age of 11, he began abstaining from and openly detesting all forms of Christianity.
He’d point out inconsistencies in the Bible during school study groups, and would defy Christian teachings by smoking, masturbating, and having sex with prostitutes. His mother referred to him as “the Beast,” due to his vile behavior. Although, “The Beast” is a title Crowley would eventually grow to embrace.
Becoming Aleister Crowley!
“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 favorable 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.””Passage from Aleister Crowley’s Autobiography
He changed his name from Edward Alexander Crowley to Aleister Crowley in 1895 at 20 years old. His reasons for discarding his old name seem to foreshadow every choice he would make for the rest of his life, they depict a man with high ambitions, firm ideals, and a complete disregard for personal connection. The following passage is taken from his autobiography:
Aleister Crowley Discovers the Occult!
Also in 1895, Aleister Crowley enrolled to be a student at the prestigious Cambridge University in England. Under his apparent normal upper class exterior was a tumultuous soul with ambitions of magical domination. He maintained sadistic sexual relationships with both men and women, and began diving deeper into the dark arts.
In the year 1898, Aleister Crowley would meet a chemist named Julian L. Baker who was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which he joined.
The Order of the Golden Dawn was devoted to studying the paranormal and all matters of the occult. He was so taken with the groups studies, Crowley hired a senior member of the group to be a live-in personal tutor on all things occult. Together, Crowley and his tutor experimented with ceremonial magic and the ritualistic use of drugs.
Crowley continued to explore his bisexuality and seek out prostitutes at every opportunity. But while this life for him was eye-opening and spiritual, higher-level members of the Golden Dawn considered it too libertine and refused to allow him entry into the upper levels of the order.
Aleister Crowley Travels The World!
Having had enough of Europe after his stint with the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley traveled to Mexico. From there, he made his way to Japan, Hong Kong, Ceylon, and India.
In November of 1902, Crowley traveled back to Europe, settling in Paris and immersing himself in the art world. Again, his outward lifestyle painted quite a different picture than the one he was truly living, as he surrounded himself with famed artists like painter Gerald Kelly and sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Aleister Crowley falls in love with Rose Kelly!
Thanks to his friend Gerald Kelly, Paris is where Aleister Crowley would fall in love. Kelly introduced Crowley to his sister Rose, not long afterwards, the two married. At first, the marriage was one “of convenience” to prevent her from entering an arranged marriage. But before long, the two fell in love for real. Crowley even set aside his profane, dark writings, and penned his wife several love poems.
As it would turn out, for awhile, Rose and Aleister Crowley were a perfect match. Rose accompanied Aleister on his journeys and went along with all of his schemes, and indeed it was through Rose that Crowley found the inspiration to begin his own religion, Thelema.
Aleister Crowley Starts a New Religion, Thelema
As Rose meditated, she told Aleister that the Egyptian god Horus was waiting for him. In 1904, through his own meditation, he heard the voice of Aiwass, the personal messenger of Horus.
Claiming he heard the words of Horus’s messenger and Horus himself, Crowley transcribed The Book of the Law, the book he would base, Thelema, his new religion on.
The main teaching of Thelema was, “Do what thou wilt“. This is similar to the way Aleister Crowley lived his entire life. The teachings were intended to act as a successor to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and were seen as extremely similar to theirs.
In 1907 Aleister Crowley founded an occult order, naming it the A∴A∴. Crowley devoted almost all of his time to building the order, writing its literature, and creating a periodical for its members.
Aleister Crowley’s Personal Life Begins to Unravel!
As Aleister Crowley was consumed by a desire to teach the masses information about the occult, his wife, Rose, was descending into full-blown alcoholism.
Meanwhile, their daughter Lilith died of typhoid in 1906. Despite the illness, Crowley blamed his daughters death on Rose’s inability to get a grip on her alcoholism.
Despite her failure to remain sober, Rose and Aleister had a second daughter, Lola, who was entrusted solely to Rose’s care upon the pair’s divorce in 1909. Eventually though, Rose would be committed to an institution in 1911.
Aleister Crowley’s life after divorce!
Aleister Crowley’s life after his divorce was spent floating from city to city, as he had before marriage, picking up several “scarlet women” along the way, one of whom allegedly bore him a son, who he named Aleister Atatürk.
During this time, it was rumored Crowley was working as a British intelligence spy, as several countries he drifted through were coincidentally under investigation.
He continued to publish occult manuscripts and engage in sex with prostitutes in the years during World War 1.
The Abbey of Thelema!
By 1920, he was living in Sicily. This is where he established the Abbey of Thelema as his headquarters. There, he and his followers experimented with sex, drugs, and a series of bizarre rituals.
In 1923, an Englishman died under mysterious circumstances after a ritual where he allegedly consumed the blood of a cat. Mussolini’s government was so appalled that they banned Crowley from Italy, forcing the headquarters to close and the group to disperse.
The setback in Sicily didn’t mean Crowley was done. He soon found an assistant who helped him transcribe his teachings and publish his books. By the late 1920s, he was remarried to a Nicaraguan woman named Maria Teresa Sanchez, so that she could join him in Britain.
Aleister Crowley & British Intelligence!
During World War 2, he kept the company of known agents of the intelligence community, such as Ian Fleming and Roald Dahl. Even so, it was never confirmed Crowley was involved with British intelligence.
However, he did offer his services to the Naval Intelligence Division at one point — and he was turned down.
The Death of Aleister Crowley!
On Dec. 1, 1947, Aleister Crowley died at age 72, his body giving out to chronic bronchitis. His funeral, dubbed the “Black Mass,” was only attended by a few of his closest friends and associates — despite his words reaching hundreds of thousands of people throughout the years.
Even though he gained the infamy he’d always strived for, he was not remembered fondly as a person. However, friends and family assured everyone, that he wouldn’t have wanted to be.
Aleister Crowley Lives On!
Though he was gone, the impact of Aleister Crowley lives on, not only with occultists but with writers, artists, philosophers, and musicians. Heck, I’m writing about him now, 76 years after taking his final breath.
The following are just a few famous examples of Crowley in popular culture.
So, regardless of your feelings about Aleister Crowley, the man definitely left his mark on the world, “The mark of the beast“.
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