“Born 1875m Aleister Crowley reached maturity in the boarding schools and brothels of Victorian England. The aspiring poet and pampered wastrel quickly gravitated toward the occult. Obsessed with reconciling his quest for spiritual perfection with his secular hedonism—Crowley developed his own school of mysticism. Devotees of Magick, as Crowley called it, embraced the imagination and glorified the will. In practice, Crowley explored his spiritual yearnings through drug-saturated vision quests and rampant sexual adventurism, but at other times he embraced Eastern philosophies and sought enlightenment on ascetic sojourns into the wilderness.
This controversial individual has inspired passioate—and seldom fair—assessments from historians. Sutin’s excellent biography treats Crowley as a cultural phenomenon, and not simply as a sorcerer or charlatan. Do What Thou Wilt is a fascinating, eve-handed study of how one man devoted his life to the subversion of the dominant moral and religious values of his time.”
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]