What would Aleister Crowley think about the Occupy movement, the financial crisis, and the 99%? We can speculate on what he might think, given a few of the things that he said about similar subjects in his own time.
We do not endorse every opinion Crowley ever put forward, nor do we suggest that the U.S. should necessarily adopt every one of his proposed policies. At AC2012, we call attention to Crowley’s central message of liberty, the Law of Thelema, as defined in Liber AL vel Legis: The Book of the Law. The question of how to apply this principle to practical politics and statecraft can be answered in numerous ways, no matter what the specific issue. Aleister Crowley’s writings have begun this exploration and it is one of the purposes of this blog to investigate what he has offered.
Worldwide Financial Crisis
The global financial crisis caused by bank bailouts is a subject we’ve covered before, in the context of the European crisis which continues to this day. Over a year ago, in our post on The Euro Crisis, we pointed out that Iceland took the approach that Crowley would have favored, to let the banks fail. Today, Iceland is enjoying a successful rebound, while countries like Ireland, Greece, and Spain continue to struggle.
Aleister Crowley might have regarded the colossal failures of Wall Street, banks, and the subsequent bailouts which have created worldwide financial crises as treasonous. As he writes concerning stock market gambling in his “Considerations of an Open Letter to Labour”:
“Any financial transaction which manifestly inconveniences the state is to be treated as treason, and punished with death.”
Concerning “quantitative easing,” which many have regarded as state-sponsored counterfeiting, Crowley describes “coining” as a criminal violation of the rights of individuals, as he writes in “Duty”:
“The essence of crime is that it restricts the freedom of the individual outraged. (Thus, murder restricts his right to live; robbery, his right to enjoy the fruits of his labour; coining, his right to the guarantee of the state that he shall barter in security; etc.) …
“Crime being a direct spiritual violation of the Law of Thelema, it should not be tolerated in the community.”
Of course, Aleister Crowley also advocated the free flow of funds and encouraged financial gambles, necessary to the functioning of society, while warning against undue thrift. He nevertheless argues that people (and corporations) making financial gambles should be allowed to fail just as they are allowed to succeed.
It is the criminal failure of Wall Street and the banks, their collusion with both major political parties, and the lack of accountability for these actions, which former Representative and economist Alan Grayson identifies as the principal concern of the “Occupy” movement:
Grayson also brings up the growing economic disparity in the U.S., which brings us to the next subject of this post.
Class Consciousness and the 99%
Aleister Crowley certainly would oppose the class consciousness of identifying with “the 99%” and vilifying “the 1%.” As we can see in Aleister Crowley’s Magick Without Tears, in the chapter entitled “‘Monsters’, Niggers, Jews, etc.” he denounces both racism and class consciousness as being based “… upon the universal sense of individual weakness. … It’s fear at the base of the whole pyramid of skulls. The submergence of the individual in his class means the end of all true human relations between men.”
He elaborates on this idea further in his novel, Moonchild, where he writes:
“As soon as you group men, they lose their personalities. A parliament of the wisest and strongest men in the nation is liable to behave like a set of schoolboys, tearing up their desks and throwing their inkpots at each other. The only possibility of co-operation lies in discipline and autocracy, which men have sometimes established in the name of equal rights.”
In the above quotation, we begin to see Crowley’s oft-repeated criticism of democracy. As he implies here, democratic politics do not always result in liberty or equal rights, and discipline and autocracy are the only real guarantees of freedom and cooperation. Insofar as the Occupy movement has advocated democracy as the ultimate solution to the many crises at hand, Aleister Crowley would certainly have disagreed. As he writes in “An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order”:
“The principle of popular election is a fatal folly; its results are visible in every so-called democracy. The elected man is always the mediocrity; he is the safe man, the sound man, the man who displeases the majority less than any other; and therefore never the genius, the man of progress and illumination.”
In spite of Crowley’s potential disagreement with some of the purposes and strategies of the Occupy movement, however, he would nevertheless support their right to speak freely about their opinions, and he would categorically denounce the use of militarized police in suppressing speech. Indeed, Crowley’s use of the police force would be minimal, and one of the few ways he would use police would be to support the rights of individuals to petition for redress against “aggression of any sort.”
Moreover, although Aleister Crowley was against “class consciousness” per se, he would definitely agree with some of the concerns of the Occupy movement, as articulated by Grayson in the video above, with respect to the growing economic disparity between classes. In particular, Aleister Crowley believed that every individual has a fundamental right to basic health care and a minimum living wage “… such as is required for decent comfort, with a surplus for amusements & investments.”
Liberty of the Individual
Concerning the financial crisis, bank bailouts, and the diminishing value of money, Aleister Crowley seems almost prophetic in his essay, “Helios: or the Future Beyond Science,” published in Agapé 8, No. 1, where he writes:
“Everything shows a profit—how true and how beautiful! Then how is it that the municipal and national debts have everywhere been multiplied, some forty-fold, some sixty-fold and some an hundred-fold? And what has become of all the profit when the purchasing power of money is daily dwindling?”
While Crowley would defend the rights of those involved in the Occupy movement to express their views, and he would certainly denounce the use of police to suppress free speech, he would consider the class consciousness of “the 99%” and idealizing democracy as part of the problem, not the solution. Thinking about this as merely an issue of contention between the classes of the “haves” and the “have nots” is an oversimplification which ignores the criminal failure of the financial sector and the resulting destruction of the wealth of nations. This destruction has ultimately resulted in suppressing individual liberty, which is the real reason that we are now seeing protests.
For all real political problems ultimately come down to suppression of the rights of individuals; and the solution, invariably, is to uphold the liberty of the individual, including the rights to free speech, minimum living wage, and basic health care. As Aleister Crowley wrote in his essay, “The Method of Thelema” (Published in The Revival of Magick):
“From the beginning of history, wise men have tried to overcome error, and to help their fellow-men to find and recognize the truth. To them must we attribute the real, the deep-lying causes of all social and political revolutions. It has always been their pride to nail to the mast the standard of liberty.”
For more examples of Aleister Crowley’s political views, be sure to see “The Prophet’s Political Platform” and check out the “Political Positions” category in our blog. Also, don’t miss the Aleister Crowley 2012 vs. Vermin Supreme debate, now available on video!