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The Magic of Aleister Crowley

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Magic of Aleister Crowley by John Symonds.

John Symonds The Magic of Aleister Crowley

This book was issued after the first edition of Symonds’ original Crowley bio The Great Beast, and the later revised edition of The Great Beast claimed to include the contents of The Magic of AC. But that was only partially true. About 60% of The Magic consists of biographical material that Symonds had not included in The Great Beast, particularly drawn from Crowley’s records of his major magical operations, such as “The Ab-ul-Diz Working” and “The Paris Working.” These passages were later integrated with the main biography, as advertised. But this material is more reliably approached through the primary documents in The Equinox IV (2) (The Vision & the Voice, with Commentary and Other Papers), of course.

What serious students will find most interesting is the other 40% of Symonds’ The Magic of AC, in which he describes the manner in which he ingratiated himself to the elderly Prophet of the Aeon. There is a curious repeated pattern, in which Crowley invites Symonds out to Netherwood, and Symonds brings along an uninvited guest as a companion. Symonds writes that “Crowley was someone to see and to talk about afterwards,” as if the old magician were a stage play for his amusement. Despite his protestations that he found Crowley entertaining in a sort of pathetic way, it looks like Symonds was genuinely afraid of him. His poor wife Margaret certainly was, and the account of Symonds arm-twisting her into a visit makes for gruesome reading. After several visits with Crowley, having read The Book of the Law and The Equinox of the Gods which Crowley gave him as gifts, Symonds still doesn’t seem to know the word Thelema, instead going on contemptuously about “Crowleyism” and “Crowleyanity.” Symonds patently deceives Crowley into thinking that he is willing to help on such projects as a new Thelemic commune (“The Green Lion”), playing him along, rather than being honest with him. He whines about getting involved in the publication of Olla, when he volunteered to help. And then he treats his assignment as literary executor as a surprising stroke of luck, when his intention to write a saleable biography of Crowley had been declared to the reader (but not to Crowley) from the outset.

Symonds once accused Crowley of being a man with no superego or conscience of any kind. He often remarked how Crowley seemed utterly mystified by why other people should consider him evil. I rather think, after reading The Magic of Aleister Crowley, that the description better fits Symonds himself. He seems to have thought that readers would consider him fully justified in lying to an eccentric old man whom he intended to use as literary fodder. So today Symonds is an elderly author living in England. If only two wrongs could make a right… [via]


The Confessions of Aleister Crowley

The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography, edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant, the 1971 paperback from Bantam Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

John Symonds Kenneth Grant Aleister The Confessions of Aleister Crowley from  Bantam Books

This is the first paperback edition of the single volume redaction of the multivolume The Spirit of Solitude, “re-Antichristianed” The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, which still has not been published beyond the first two volumes, and, in spite of the ad copy, this is, indeed, still an abridgement of the sourcework. Publication of the complete Confessions might, maybe, finally begin with volume 1 available sometime in 2013.

“Complete and Unabridged—The Profane and Uninhibited Memoirs of the Most Notorious Magician, Satanist and Drug Cultist of the 20th Century.”

“Aleister Crowley called himself ‘Beast 666’ and was a self-proclaimed saint of the Gnostic Church. He became a ‘god’ in his own temple at the age of forty-five. By that time, he was infamous in several countries as a writer, poet, painter, chess expert, master magician, mountaineer, drug addict and satyr.

Born in England in 1875, the sone of a wealthy brewer, Crowley totally rejected the Victorian hypocrisy of his day and dedicated himself to a life of debauchery, evil, Satanic spells and writing, especially on such topics as sex, magic and occultism.

A notorious pleasure-seeker, Crowley truly was the hippie of his age, ‘doing his thing.’ He was banned from Italy and was forced to leave other countries, always under mysterious circumstances. Crowley was a constant user of heroin, cocaine, opium, hashish and peyote, and early in his life earned a reputation for indulging in wild sex and drug orgies which he combined with his so-called religious rites.

his reputation followed him everywhere as he traveled from country to country, practicing witchcraft and black magic with his strange group of mistresses and eccentrics.

Colourful, feared, despised and admired, Crowley brought excitement and evil with him wherever he went. He was the author of several books, treatises and poems, many of which are widely read and appreciated today.”

“Aleister Crowley was poet, painter, writer, master chess player, lecher, drug addict and magician. his contemporary press called him ‘the wickedest man in the world.’ The most bizarre and notorious figure of his age, Crowley’s own story is now available in paperback from the first time.

But The Confessions of Aleister Crowley is more than just the autobiography of a man. It is also the portrait of an age. Everything is set down just as Crowley experienced it.

In addition to being a famed magician, Crowley also had a well-deserved reputation as a writer. his flair for literature and his gusto for life elevate this books several levels above the ordinary ‘confession’ type of literature prevalent in his day.

His writing is crisp, witty and amusing and always fascinating. Crowley believed that he could do anything he set his mind to. And he’ll make a believer out of you.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Magical Record of the Beast 666

Magical Record of the Beast 666: The Diaries of Aleister Crowley, 1914–1920, edited with copious annotations by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant, the 1993 third impression of the paperback from Duckworth, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Aleister Crowley John Symonds Kenneth Grant The Magical Record of the Beast 666 from Duckworth

“Crowley called his Diary a Magical Record because it contains accounts of his magical experiments, including the details of his secret sexual magick and of his consumption of a variety of dangerous drugs. it was not written with an eye to publication. ‘I don’t particularly expect anybody to read it,’ he wrote. Hence the unguarded way in which he recorded his innermost thoughts and performances of secret rites. There is a veiled reference to this extraordinary journal in his Magick in Theory and Practice, 1929. ‘Yea, he [Crowley’s Holy Guardian Angel, Aiwaz] wrought also in me a Work of Wonder beyond all this, but in this matter I am sworn to hold my peace.’ The ‘Work of Wonder’ was his supreme initiation into the highest grade of the mystical Order of the Silver Star, the beginning of which is described in this volume. Crowley, who died in 1947, had to hold his peace about that, and certainly about his sexual magick. Today, in these confused times, strange creeds thrust themselves forward, asking to be examined. everything is in the melting pot and a way out of the chaos in being anxiously sought. There is no stranger creed than Crowley’s doctrine of Do What Thou Wilt. Nor are there any experiences more exotic than his mystical illuminations and initiations.

John Symonds is Crowley’s literary executor and biographer. Kenneth Grant is the present world head of the Order of Oriental Templars, the magical order which Crowley reorganized in the 1920s.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of the Law

Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley, edited and annotated by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant, with an introduction by Kenneth Grant, the 1974 edition from 93 Publishing, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

John Symonds, Kenneth Grant and Aleister Crowley's Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the-Book of the Law from 93 Publishing

Unfortunately this is just a rather clandestine facsimile of a facsimile of the much sought after Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on Liber AL vel Legis, The Book of the Law.

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

A Magick Life

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Magick Life: A Biography of Aleister Crowley by Martin Booth:

Martin Booth's A Magick Life from Coronet

 

Of the nearly innummerable Crowley bios I have read, this one may be the best for the curious layperson. Its facts are pretty solid throughout; and it is highly readable and well organized. The author confesses that he doesn’t know much about magick, and while that lack does show occasionally, his caution in that department rescues him from technical howlers that plague even such sage treatments as Kaczysnki’s Perdurabo. The tone of this book manages to stay in the wide middle ground between the derision of Symonds’ Great Beast (a.k.a. King of the Shadow Realm) and the adulation of Suster’s Legacy of the Beast. Unfortunately, it looks like its timing sucked: arriving just before Sutin’s Do What Thou Wilt, it was mostly washed under by the tide of Crowley bios. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.