Top 10 Crowley Myths which are Actually True

In one of our most popular posts, we listed ten myths about Aleister Crowley which we refuted within this blog. We also revealed some interesting facts about Crowley in our guide to the AC2012 campaign ad. Now, we offer ten myths about Aleister Crowley which are actually true! (Or are they…?)

10. Aleister Crowley wrote Gerald Gardner’s Wiccan initiation rituals.

Gerald Gardner

Gerald Gardner

OK, no, Gardner didn’t pay Crowley to write the Wiccan initiation rituals. And it’s not that Crowley sat down to write initiation rituals for Wicca. What happened, apparently, was this: Gardner took a bunch of Crowley’s writings, and material from Liber AL vel Legis, and sort of cut and pasted them with a few words changed and a few words added.  From this he created initiation rituals, the Charge of the Goddess, the Drawing Down the Moon ritual, and more. For the full account, see Rodney Orpheus’ essay, “A New and Greater Pagan Cult: Gerald Gardner & Ordo Templi Orientis.”

9. Aleister Crowley knew the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

Aleister Crowley L. Ron Hubbard

L. Ron Hubbard

And by know him, we mean… well, Aleister Crowley at least heard about L. Ron Hubbard — enough that he got “fairly frantic” when contemplating the idiocy that he was hearing about. Look, that’s about as well as we think anyone should know L. Ron Hubbard. The lack of any real contact, however, didn’t stop Hubbard from claiming that Crowley was his “very good friend,” as you can hear in this recording where Hubbard pronounces Crowley’s name wrong, discusses a book by Crowley that doesn’t exist, and concludes by saying that Crowley is “Very, very, something or other.”

Aleister Crowley had learned about Hubbard’s friendship with Jack Parsons, who at the time was Master of Agapé Lodge No. 2, one of the American lodges of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. Hubbard and Parsons had started a business together and began the ridiculous Babalon Working. Crowley was right to be frantic; the business partnership ultimately ended in shambles, Hubbard ran off with Parsons’ boat, and went on to start his sci-fi religion, Scientology.

8. Aleister Crowley was actually a nice guy with a good sense of humor.

The common defect of all mystical systems previous to that of the Aeon whose Law is Thelema is that there has been no place for Laughter.Just, not always at the same time. Aleister Crowley’s best humor was often at someone else’s expense, but overall he had a kind heart and a deep concern for the well-being of every man, woman, and child alive. Indeed, in 1924 he dedicated his life to serving humankind, and from then on he worked tirelessly and exclusively for the cause of human liberty.

It would be impossible to survey Crowley’s extraordinary wit in this small space. Suffice to say, all of his prose is packed with humor. Aleister Crowley’s original writing is far funnier than any of the parodies of his work. Below are a few short examples of his excellent jests. If you have any other favorite witticisms from Aleister Crowley, please share in the comments!

“One would go mad if one took the Bible seriously; but to take it seriously one must be already mad.” — Liber ABA, Part II, Chapter XVI

“May the New Year bring you courage to break your resolutions early! My own plan is to swear off every kind of virtue, so that I triumph even when I fall!” — Moonchild

“Theosophist: A person who talks about Yoga, and does no work.” — Liber ABA, Glossary

“Some men are born sodomites, some achieve sodomy, and some have sodomy thrust upon them…” — The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz

“[I adopt the phrase 'Holy Guardian Angel'] Because since all theories of the universe are absurd it is better to talk in the language of one which is patently absurd, so as to mortify the metaphysical man.” — The Temple Of Solomon the King in The Equinox I, no. 1.

7. Aleister Crowley inspired the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

Aleister Crowley Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary as Aleister Crowley

Most people are quite aware of Aleister Crowley’s censored appearance on the cover of Sgt. Pepper among the Beatles’ other heroes. Few, though, have gone on to ask why Aleister Crowley made the cut. John Lennon made the connection clear in an interview with Playboy when he said that “The whole Beatle idea was to do what you want, right?  To take your own responsibility.” Lennon was paraphrasing “Do what thou wilt,” which is one of the central precepts of Thelema, the religion founded by Aleister Crowley. Thelema is the Greek word which means “will” and teaches that we each must discover our individual inmost nature, described as the “True Will.”

The Beatles were only the first of many counterculture rock musicians in the 1960s to openly cite Aleister Crowley as an influence. Led Zeppelin‘s guitarist Jimmy Page was very interested in Aleister Crowley and he remains a prominent Thelemite today. We have even recently learned that Frank Zappa was reading Crowley in 1968.

Apart from rock stars, who helped to popularize the writings of Aleister Crowley, we can also look at some of the people who revolutionized western culture in other, perhaps more deep and lasting ways. To start with, let’s consider where these musicians may have heard about Aleister Crowley. Perhaps the most likely candidate is Harry Smith, a Thelemite whose influence on folk and rock music cannot be overstated. Aleister Crowley also once dined with Aldous Huxley in Berlin, and the rumor goes that Crowley introduced him to peyote. Timothy Leary saw himself as continuing Crowley’s work, and said so on national television. Check out this clip:

These are only a few of the major streams of influence that Aleister Crowley had in shaping the counterculture movement of the 1960s. There is much more to explore, including Crowley’s efforts to make Eastern philosophy more accessible to the West, which helped to inspire the whole New Age movement. For more complete explorations, you can start by reading the best biographies of Aleister Crowley:

6. Aleister Crowley was one of the earliest published homoerotic poets in the UK.

Aleister Crowley homoerotic poet

Aleister Crowley in his Cambridge years, 1895-1898

At a time when it was illegal to be gay in the UK, when being convicted of sodomy could mean hard labor, Aleister Crowley was publishing verse that could have easily landed him in prison. Indeed, many of Aleister Crowley’s books were banned and/or burned because of the sexuality portrayed in them. Crowley was bisexual and wrote poetry across the spectrum of taboo, whether homosexual or not.

As a notable example, Aleister Crowley published White Stains in Amsterdam in 1898, under the pseudonym of George Archibald Bishop. All but a few copies of the first edition of this book were seized and destroyed by British customs. This came only three years after Oscar Wilde was sent to prison for his poetic allusions to homosexuality.

Later in Crowley’s life, he would continue to write sexual poetry which still shocks people to read even in the 21st century of the common era. For perhaps the most stunning example of this, see his poem inspired by his love of Leah Hirsig entitled Leah Sublime.

5. Aleister Crowley faked his own death.

Fernando Pessoa on Portuguese currency

Fernando Pessoa on Portuguese currency

No, we’re not claiming that Aleister Crowley is still alive and hanging out with Elvis. His death in 1947 was very real and his body was cremated. But before that, in 1930, Aleister Crowley worked with his friend Fernando Pessoa to fake his death at the Boca do Inferno near Lisbon. Crowley left a sad note about heartbreak at the top of this dangerous rock formation, the implication being that he had jumped to his death. Pessoa, the celebrated Portuguese poet, followed up by feeding suggestive ideas to the local papers concerning the occult symbols that Crowley had used to decorate his note, and telling them that he had seen Crowley’s ghost the next day. The papers ran with it, and announced Crowley’s suicide, much to the amusement of both Crowley and Pessoa. Some weeks later, Crowley arrived unannounced at an exhibit of some of his paintings in Berlin. For more about Fernando Pessoa and his brief friendship with Aleister Crowley, see The Magical World of Fernando Pessoa.

4. Aleister Crowley was a spy who worked for the Allies during World War II.

Aleister Crowley v-sign

Aleister Crowley and Winston Churchill against Hitler

We’ve written here before about some of Aleister Crowley’s activities during World War II.  In our post, “V for Victory,” we explained how Crowley’s idea to use the “v-sign” as a magical foil to the Nazis’ swastika was picked up by Churchill. In that same post, we discussed Crowley’s French propaganda poem, “La Gauloise,” and how it was received by de Gaulle, set to music and played on BBC radio. We also discussed this briefly and provided some fun graphics along these lines in our post, “The Answer to 1984 is 666.”

Ian Fleming, the future author of the James Bond novels, was at that time a Navy intelligence officer.  He knew Crowley and hatched several schemes to use Crowley to feed misinformation to the Nazis through Rudolph Hess. it is widely speculated that the eventual capture of Hess was thanks to Aleister Crowley’s work as a spy.

Crowley also seems to have done this in World War I when he created some badly written pro-German propaganda, clearly intended to make the Germans look bad.

You can learn all about Aleister Crowley’s activities as a spook in Secret Agent 666, by Richard Spence.

3. Aleister Crowley tore up his British passport and declared independence for Ireland.

Ireland had a special place in Crowley’s heart. He called himself an Irishman inThe Book of Lies, wrote a poem for St. Patrick’s Day, and even penned a Declaration of Independence of the Irish Republic. He also had some thoughts on an improvement to the flag of Ireland in flashing colors, which he expressed in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, published July 21, 1915:

“The true flag of Ireland is a red sunblaze on a green ground. This is symbolical not only of Ireland’s geographical position as the sentinel of the western gate of Europe, but of her traditional history.”

Here’s our rendition of Crowley’s description for a new Irish flag:

Irish Flag as proposed by Aleister Crowley

Irish Flag as proposed by Aleister Crowley

Ireland today faces many issues for which Aleister Crowley would certainly be able to offer some guidance. We have written before on Irish politics, including the blasphemy law and the Euro crisis which has created much difficulty for Ireland.

2. Aleister Crowley was the Great Beast 666 prophesied by John the Divine.

No, really. People sometimes think that Aleister Crowley was joking around or just trying to shock people by calling himself ΤΟ ΜΕΓΑ ΘΗΡΙΟΝ DCLXVI (The Great Beast 666). But he really meant it and there are good reasons to think he may have been right. Crowley himself gives a full account of how this happened in his piece, “The Master Therion–A Biographical Note,” as well as in The Equinox of the Gods and part 4 of Liber ABA.

T Polyphilus and Soror Sphinx explore this fascinating aspect of Aleister Crowley in an article published in Reality Sandwich, entitled “The Great Beast Was Here,” where they write:

In 1904, Crowley received a text as a result of magical invocation: The Book of the Law. The law the book contained may be summed up in these words: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” With the arrival of this new law, Crowley believed the old world order was completely overturned — destroyed by fire, as it were — and a new age dawned. He called his new system Thelema (Greek for “will”), and identified himself with the Great Beast of Revelation. Accordingly, Thelema declares Christianity obsolete, along with all other world religions, even while putting to use their most potent spiritual techniques, symbolism, and mythic narratives.

The Mark of the Beast

The Mark of the Beast also makes a great tattoo

Far from being a horrific catastrophe, the word “apocalypse” really means an unveiling, a revelation. Since 1904 we have seen tremendous changes throughout society all over the globe. From the perspective of early Christians like John the Divine, the overturning of the old religions was a frightening prospect. From our perspective today, it is a welcome and overdue change. Today, whether people are conscious of Crowley’s magical workings or not, most have come to accept the inherent divinity and liberty of every individual as a self-evident fact of life.

Aleister Crowley also designed his own Mark of the Beast, which we have struck in a coin commemorating our 2012 campaign. A few of these coins are still available exclusively through this website.

1. Aleister Crowley was a solar myth.

When Aleister Crowley was asked during a trial to explain his office, Crowley replied, “‘The Beast 666′ only means ‘sunlight’. You can call me ‘Little Sunshine.'”

In some ways, it is easier to believe that Aleister Crowley is a myth than to believe that he could have been a single, mortal human being. In this myth of Aleister Crowley we find a person who has excelled in three completely distinct careers, which he classifies as “the Secret Way of the Initiate, the Path of Poetry and Philosophy, and the Open Sea of Romance and Adventure.” Aleister Crowley points out that in truly great men, we might find one or two of these facets, but never all three. He concludes:

… in this particular instance all three careers are so full that posterity might well be excused for surmising that not one but several individuals were combined in a legend, or even for taking the next step and saying: This Aleister Crowley was not a man, or even a number of men; he is obviously a solar myth. — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Part 1, Prelude

sun solar helios

“Our religion therefore, for the People, is the Cult of the Sun, who is our particular star of the Body of Nuit, from whom, in the strictest scientific sense, come this earth, a chilled spark of Him, and all our Light and Life.” — Commentary on Liber AL vel Legis III:22

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We realize that Aleister Crowley is dead. And British. And, moreover, not running for office. Nevertheless, we believe that the most effective vote you can cast in 2012 is one for Aleister Crowley. “The absolute rule of the state shall be a function of the absolute liberty of each individual will.”
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64 Responses to Top 10 Crowley Myths which are Actually True

  1. mjazzguitar says:

    Does anyone have any links to what he said about his experiences with peyote and mescaline?

  2. Frank Benson says:

    Great job idiots, You talk about that audio of L Ron Hubbard in # 9 mentioning a book written by Crowley that you say “does not exist” and yet you actually mention the exact book Hubbard talks about in that audio, “The Master Therion”, in # 2.

    Good job morons. By the way, “The Master Therion” book simply had a name change to “Magick in Theory and Practice” which you can get on amazon.com. can’t say a single thing about Hubbard without attempting to bash him to bits and and lying about shit you know nothing about. Fucking tools.

  3. Pingback: PBP: “C” is for Crowley

  4. Frater Phaino says:

    Reblogged this on Frater Phaino and commented:
    Along with “Ten Crowley Myths Busted,” this is a must-read for all who approach the mysterious character of The Great Beast 666.

  5. Pingback: Aleister Crowley, l’Hashish mistico della Bestia | WSF

  6. Ben Hennessy says:

    I think a better assessment as to why Aleister Crowley is The Beast as prophesied by John of Patmos can easily be inferred from Crowley’s own word in Magick (Book IV)

    “This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade ‘Know Thyself!’ and taught Initiation.”

    One might say when he gave up the secrets of the Golden Dawn, which has it’s origins in Gnostic Christianity and the Greco-Roman Mysteries, he committed the same apostasy towards the secret societies as Baphomet did to the rest of the Godhead.

  7. Jesse says:

    In regards to Dan’s Question…The death of AC’s son is also described with some detail in a book called “America Bewitched: The Rise of Black Magic and Spiritism” by Daniel Logan. I believe it was published in the early to mid 1970s.

  8. Jesse Raley says:

    In 1979 when I was 15, having never heard of Aleister Crowley, I bought a copy of Moonchild at a used book store. I bought it because it was cheap and the description on the back was interesting. Thelema and mysticism were entirely outside my experience. I loved it for its’ humor, and it remains one of my favorites.

  9. Nice article! One of my favourite Crowley witticisms has always been, from the dedication page of Liber AL: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law…” and then it goes on to say, “The study of this book is forbidden!” —ha ha ha!

  10. Interesting list. I wouldn’t have described Aleister Crowley as a nice guy or anything close to it but I do think that his (twisted) sense of humour was key to a lot of his personality. I tend to believe that he viewed much of what he did, or preached, as a big joke. Like L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology you have the impression that behind closed doors he was laughing at everyone else involved.

    A handful of writers have suggested that Crowley’s 1915 Declaration of an Irish Republic was actually part of a British Intelligence plan to sow confusion in Irish-American political circles and whip up anti-Irish sentiment in the US by associating the cause of Ireland’s freedom with German “aggression” during WWI. Crowley’s links to Britain’s spy agencies are well known and certainly British spy-rings were extremely active in monitoring Irish-Republican organisations in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia during the period. Plots and counter-plots proliferated. However it seems more likely that the whole event was simply staged as yet another of Crowley’s self-aggrandizing stunts and a two-fingered salute to a Britain he felt disenchanted from.

    That said, it is interesting that the flag referred to by Crowley is the Gal Gréine, the Irish Sunburst banner, which in the 19th and early 20th centuries was very closely associated with Irish revolutionary movements, both political and cultural. These organisations largely rejected the classical Irish Harp flag as a emblem of British rule in Ireland or the collaborative Irish Parliamentary Party. Outside of Irish or Irish-emigrant communities the significance of these symbols would not have been readily known implying that Crowley at least knew something of the Irish cultural and political milieu.

    He may have been a charlatan but he was a charlatan with brains ;-)

    • ac2012 says:

      Great comment. Thanks for contributing. Certainly many things he did were done with good humor, but there was a serious, purposeful side of his every action.

  11. Wow, I loved 3, I knew that he respected the Scottish, but I was surprised to read this. Crowley now has my full respect (but he kind of already had that, so…)

  12. paschendale333 says:

    “In 1904, Crowley received a text as a result of magical invocation: The Book of the Law. The law the book contained may be summed up in these words: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” With the arrival of this new law, Crowley believed the old world order was completely overturned”

    Really? And all this time I thought he plagerized the Fransican monk François Rabelais and his series of satirical books Gargantua and Pantagruel, and the monestary the Abbey of Theleme in the books, where the only rule was to “do what thou wilt”…

    • ac2012 says:

      Well, that was a pretty stupid thought, since anyone who has read the books you mention and who understands what plagiarism is would never make such a stupid error.

  13. Could you post a link to “Leah Sublime” that has the actual poem rather than an R-rated redacted version full of asterisks, please?

  14. fraterlux says:

    Reblogged this on INTO THE MYSTERIES.

  15. Pingback: Edward Alexander Crowley & The Beatles | strike-through

  16. Pingback: Why are celebrities joining the O.T.O.? | Sex Positive Thelema

  17. Pingback: LAM I AM | Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge

  18. Woo Hoo says:

    For Crowley’s sense of humor, his “Dead Weight” review of Arthur Edward Waite is hilarious, if rather mean-spirited. Your Section 8 made me think of it. If you’ve never read it or haven’t read it for awhile, it is worth re-reading. Thanks for AC2012. Very entertaining. Made my day.

  19. Pingback: The Number of the Beast: 616 or 666? | Aleister Crowley 2012

  20. brian says:

    Was A.C. Really a 33rd degree freemason??

  21. macineely says:

    Say what you will,Christians.But you cannot deny,the man had style.(Plus,he is smarter than a lot of Scientologist.He didn’t even have to meet the man to know he was going to screw Jack Parsons over.)

  22. wapiniwapini says:

    The child murder mentioned in some of his rite referenced merely masturbation. ‘Spilling his seed’ would not allow for a chid’s birth.

    ‘pini

  23. Dan says:

    I once read that Crowley had a son who was found dead after AC performed a ritual designed to summon Pan. Ca’t remember if they said the son’s head was turned backwards. I have no idea if AC even had a son. Any truth to this tale ?

  24. Mark Seltman says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Crowlely claimed that Evangeline Adams took credit for some astrological writings and predictions he made. It’s interesting that once Adams became famous, she stopped making predictions…

  25. Pingback: LAM I AM | Aleister Crowley 2012

  26. Daniel Pico says:

    My first Crowley´s lecture was “The Gospel According to Saint Bernard Shaw” … and was in fact the must funny way to learn occultism…

    btw.. I´m sure that is possible to play with some gematria and/or other numerologist method in order to find the number 3 for his “return from grave”…

  27. Brandon says:

    One might almost percieve it to be a litmus test as to whether or not an individual has truly and completely accepted the Law of Thelema: the ability to laugh very consistently whilst reading Crowley’s works :)

    • ac2012 says:

      We don’t tend to endorse the idea of litmus tests in general, and of course Crowley was very serious about Thelema, but it’s true that there is much good humor throughout all his writings!

  28. Pingback: Crowley « Bohemian Glade

  29. Nikola Crowley says:

    A true master,teacher and. Mastermind …… Many know little of the beast and what they know are all lies ….. Never do they pick a book written by him instead they pick up the bible!!!! What waist of time for those religios freaks…… Freewill Ac2012

  30. Simon R Humphries says:

    The whole of Scientology and “Dianetics” was the brainchild of Revilo P Oliver. . .
    (Jesuit/Tzaddik agent) Hubbard was merley Handled. Revilo P Oliver also “handeled” Timothy Mcveigh (still alive) Murrah building incident. I would love to be able to read German so that I could read the original Scientology(1934), as this is the language that he published his “Imperium” not Francis Parker Yockey (ostensible author)

  31. He was a pioneer well ahead of his time. He did leave a wealth of writings for the generations to come.

    Aleister Nacht

  32. Pingback: Reading Roundup: 12 August 2012 « My Esoteric Studies: Ritual Is Magic

  33. Pingback: Mysteria Misc. Maxima: August 10th, 2012 « Invocatio

  34. jumeirajames says:

    He’s an interesting guy, that’s for sure.
    I read that he encouraged his wife to have sex with a goat. Is that true or just another myth?

    • ac2012 says:

      At the Abbey in Cefalu, they did all kinds of crazy stuff that even AC later regretted, but he probably didn’t have to do much convincing of Leah Hirsig, who had quite an appetite for taboo sex (to put it politely). Nevertheless, the goat didn’t cooperate. Leah was not his wife, by the way.

      • jumeirajames says:

        I wasn’t sure of Leah’s status but I guessed she would not be his wife. She sounds almost as interesting as AC though. It would have been great to have been at some of the parties.

    • initiate says:

      No … I think he was trying to encourage the goat to have sex with the wife

  35. Shane Frazier says:

    Another of my favorite bits of Crowley humor, I don’t remember where it’s from:
    “I was asked to memorize what I did not understand; and, my memory being so good, it refused to be insulted in that manner”

  36. Kevin... says:

    Another awesome article, guys, seriously. I shall spread this throughout the land (of Facebook, anyway).

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