The symbolic syncretism of the Golden Dawn a century ago, which fused renaissance Hermeticism with oriental esoterics drawn from the European imperial experience, only fully flowered when Aleister Crowley added a battery of gnostic power techniques culled from diverse cultural sources.
Why did Aleister Crowley hate Christianity so much? You would too, if you were “Alec.” The long autobiographical preface to The World’s Tragedy makes his personal motivation abundantly clear. The main text of the book is a play in verse, re-writing the entire Gospel myth to subordinate it to the worldview of Crowley’s “Pagan rapture,” and soundly trashing all of the fondest and most revered of Christian imaginings.
A prologue in “The Garden of Eros” translates the Christian Trinity into a not-even-demiurgic threesome of schemers in an antelapsarian Arcadia. The first act is “The Red Star,” in which an act of child sacrifice (what else?) inaugurates the drama, and the spiritual life of humanity turns toward the darkness of Christianity. In “The White Wind,” the annunciation is supplanted with a depiction of the rape of the Virgin Mary by a Roman centurion (an allegation advanced in antiquity by both critics and believers of Christianity). “The Blue Dwarf” is the act that presents the nativity of Jesus, who comes forth as a bottle-bound genie, under the sage appraisals of the magi. The fourth act is “The Black Bean,” showing unpleasant domestic relations among Jesus and two “beloved disciples” (John and Magda). The final section crucifies Jesus in the “thick darkness of the Emptiness of Things,” and heralds the act as the beginning of the end of classical virtue, descending into “The Grey Night” of Christianity.
The second printing of the New Falcon Press edition includes two additional pieces of font matter. An introduction by Israel Regardie describes his own personal relationship to the text, as well as vouching for its literary quality and keen sense of humor. The foreword by Hyatt and DuQuette places the 1991 republication of the book in the context of aggressive political reaction on the part of fundamentalist Christians in the USA. The two also mention that the play had at that time never been staged.
I have talked with Thelemites from time to time who think it would be rewarding to publicly stage this often hilarious and unquestionably blasphemous work. In truth, it would not be worth the bother to amass the necessary resources for a full and polished production. The play is almost entirely destructive and anti-Christian: its final message of messianism for a new Aeon is too cryptic to communicate effectively to profane audiences. On the other hand, individual acts can make excellent reader’s theater for consumption among the cognoscenti. They can even be timed to the liturgical calendar: I have enjoyed seeing “The Blue Dwarf” put on as the Worst Xmas Pageant Ever. [via]
Randall Bowyer reviews The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King: Lemegeton – Clavicula Salomonis Regis, Book 1, translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, edited by Aleister Crowley and Hymenaeus Beta, from the Bkwyrm archive.
Reviewed: the illustrated second edition with new annotations by Aleister Crowley, edited by Hymenaeus Beta.
First of all, I must reassure you that the illustrations are not those D&D-style drawings that mar the New Falcon edition of the Goetia, but rather the adorable little engravings by Louis Breton that you’ve seen in all those coffee-table books; they are supplemented by a few of Crowley’s crude sketches, which have the advantage of having been drawn from life. The new edition irons out some errors which were present in the first edition, greatly increases the usefulness of the Enochian conjurations, and generally makes the book more convenient for reference; it even fixes the pile of mistakes in the Greek text of 365 from the 1994 edition of Magick. It is not, however, without its flaws. First, the book is printed on cheap, see-through paper. Second, the new edition introduces more than fifty new errors. Most of these occur in the Editor’s Foreword, and most are very minor problems like the incorrect accenting of several Greek words; others, though, are more substantive errors of fact. For all these blunders we can thank the Tepaphone’s own “R. B.,” who had a hand in the translating and proofreading work for this new edition. Despite his arrogance and the occasional shallowness of his research, I really expected more of this intelligent amateur. R. B. tells me that a corrected reprint on real paper is already in the works, and will appear under the imprint of 93 Publishing: perhaps serious students should wait for this improved version. Meanwhile, the new edition is still better than the first edition.
Man has the right to live by his own law—
to live in the way that he wills to do:
to work as he will:
to play as he will:
to rest as he will:
to die when and how he will.
Aleister Crowley, Liber OZ
Man has the right …
to dwell where he will:
to move as he will on the face of the earth.
Aleister Crowley, Liber OZ
Annihilation of Aleister Crowley, on December 3, 1909 at Bou-Saada, Algeria
Greater Feast of Aleister Crowley, died December 1, 1947 at Hastings, United Kingdom
Not only didn’t I mind Simon Callow’s Crowley, I thought Callow did a really good job … but in a crappy movie. Or, at least, I assume so. I really couldn’t watch the 2nd half of Chemical Wedding because it turned super stupid. I suppose it’s possible that the end managed to turn it around, but I gave up; and, when I talked with people that stayed for the whole thing I’m glad I left.
However, the first half really made an impression, which I was disappointed that the rest didn’t live up to. I kept thinking how interesting, as high concept, to ask what would it be like if Crowley were somehow brought back to life today. What would he say and do, and what would his personality and ideas be like, when placed within a current cultural context. What would he applaud and what would he lament and what would surprise and what would shock, anger, confuse? And what insights and breakthroughs could be made given more time in a new time?
For that matter, it’s an interesting idea which you could ask of any historical figure. Any of the historical figure re-enactments is an example of how this can be compelling. I’m thinking primarily of Holbrook’s Twain and Jenkinson’s Jefferson as these seem to be exemplars. Or, I suppose also the Riverworld stories of Farmer are also examples of this idea of moving historical figures into another context. Maybe some more good examples are the alternative history stories that come out every once in a while and even the recent trend of adding zombies or whatnot to historical literature.
Well, anyhow, I was watching the special features on Branagh’s Hamlet, and I was struck by how closely he seemed to me in some of the videos to resemble Crowley in some pictures.
Admittedly the picture of Branagh above is not the most flattering, but he’s so often smiling that it’s the best I could find on short notice to show side-by-side.
Anyhow, leaving aside the high concept of time travel and resurrection, wouldn’t it be something to see a decent period bio-pic of Crowley done with such production values and acting that someone like Branagh could bring to it? There’s certainly enough material to be interesting. Like the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton which really has only ever appeared once, and then only a short bit, in The Mountains of the Moon (which is actually a really well-done movie that I recommend); a decently done movie about Crowley, with warts and all to be sure, of course, please, but not something that is just stupid sensationalism or worse a really crappy B-grade film, would really be something to see.
Originally posted over on my personal blog at As great an actor to enact Crowley as this.