Tag Archives: marco pasi

Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics by Marco Pasi, from Acumen Publishing.

Marco Pasi Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics from Acumen Publishing

I had known about this book for many years, and while I am unequipped to engage the Italian original, I had more than once considered taking on the German edition. I am glad I waited long enough to benefit from the English version, though. Not only does it include the author’s revision and expansion, the timing has allowed it to come into useful dialog with Richard B. Spence’s Secret Agent 666, another volume drawing on an overlapping set of data. Pasi accuses Spence of overindulging in speculation and of oversimplifying Crowley’s motives. (I find myself more in agreement on the second count than the first.) Whereas Spence offers a picture of a Crowley whose loyalties to his home country are privately invariable, Pasi is more apt to take Crowley on the basis of his mercurial presentation.

Among the many variations in Crowley’s character and political interests as traced by Pasi, there is a single watershed point. Like Alex Owen, Israel Regardie, and Crowley himself, Pasi locates this change in the Algerian desert operations by which Crowley completed his passage of the Ordeal of the Abyss. Prior to this episode, Pasi observes, Crowley’s focus was on the adventure of self-development, while after it he pursued the mission of communicating his Law of Thelema and putting it into practice in society.

On either side of this biographical divide, however, Pasi notices inconsistencies in Crowley’s expressed political affections and associations. He tends to characterize these as a function of the magician’s “opportunism” or “pragmatism” with respect to political movements. Given how very contradictory some of these political positions were, however, a further level of explanation is required. Pasi has dismissed (perhaps too quickly, in light of these contradictions) the solution of double agency proposed by Spence, but he omits another possible rationale to which he should have been attentive.

For the younger Crowley-as-aspirant, radical change of political perspective was a magical discipline for spiritual development. He documents this practice in the form of an instruction in the technical paper Liber III vel Jugorum: “By some device, such as the changing of thy ring from one finger to another, create in thyself two personalities … For instance, let A be a man of strong passions, skilled in the Holy Qabalah, a vegetarian, and a keen ‘reactionary’ politician. Let B be a bloodless and ascetic thinker, occupied with business and family cares, an eater of meat, and a keen progressive politician. Let no thought proper to A arise when the ring is on the B finger, and vice versa.”

For the mature magus, on the other hand, there were the words of the Angel of the Fifth Aire whom he had encountered in Tolga, Algeria in 1913: “For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity. And there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself.” The Master of the Temple must thus finally comprehend in himself all political valences, expressing them as demanded by the finite conditions of circumstance. If, as the Thelemic scripture of Liber Porta Lucis avers, “To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism,” then how much less between democracy and monarchy, capitalism and communism?

Besides a political biography of Crowley himself, and studies of his most politically significant close associates, Pasi’s book includes a special examination of the Beast’s connection with Fernando Pessoa, and the fake suicide that Crowley staged in Portugal. These events, interesting in their own right, shade into the final topic of “Counter-initiation and conspiracy,” the keynote of which is René Guénon’s allegation that Crowley’s Portuguese stunt was intended to allow him to slip off to Germany where he would become a special adviser to Hitler. As a matter of factual claim, this notion is laughable, but it makes an excellent anchor for a limited survey of others’ use of Crowley as a villain in political narratives.

Pasi’s Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics was first published in 1999, but in its second major revision, it stands as one of the best examples of thoughtful 21st-century scholarship on Crowley. [via]

Omnium Gatherum: March 12th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for March 12th, 2014

Little Wide Awake 1877 from Craig Conley, Abecedarian
An illustration from an 1877 issue of Little Wide Awake magazine.” — Craig Conley, Abecedarian

 

  • Ask Massively: And the money will follow” — Brianna Royce, Massively; from the two-pennies-to-rub-together dept.

    “My mother always told me, ‘Do what you love, and the money will follow.’ It’s not true. I wish it were. Sorry mom. It’s a dangerous thing to tell a geeky little girl something like that when she’s trying to decide whether to be a coroner, an international diplomat, or a butterfly. I did not become any of these things. I got a degree in what I loved, but the money followed only when I got a job I didn’t love to pay for my husband to do what he loved. My landing a job with Massively (almost four years ago!) was the product of an unrelated cross-country move, a lot of luck, and an unusual combination of otherwise mundane knowledge. It was not something I planned and executed meticulously as a career plan.”

  • #AmtrakResidency” — Amtrak; from the they-who-curse-the-bum-on-the-rods dept.

    “#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.

    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.

    Residencies will be anywhere from 2-5 days, with exceptions for special projects.”

  • WIT researchers discover ‘lost’ Einstein model of universe” — Dick Ahlstrom, Irish Times; from the i-will-not-be-pushed-filed-stamped-indexed-briefed-debriefed-or-numbered dept.

    “‘I was looking through drafts, but then slowly realised it was a draft of something very different,’ Dr [Cormac] O’Raifeartaigh said. ‘I nearly fell off my chair. It was hidden in perfect plain sight. This particular manuscript was misfiled as a draft of something else.'”

     

  • Albert Einstein quote via “Albert Einstein, when he arrived in America, was shocked at how African Americans were treated.” — Emily, Dichotomization [also]; from the emperor’s-new-clothes dept.

    “There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”

  • On Gaia tests whether the hypothesis holds up to scientific scrutiny” — Scott K Johnson, Ars Technica; from the because-the-cosmos-is-also-within-us dept.

    “In the early 1970s, Lovelock—with the help of Lynn Margulis—developed the Gaia Hypothesis, which views the Earth and its ecosystems as resembling a sort of superorganism. Lovelock was working for NASA at the time, developing instruments that would aid the Viking landers in looking for signs of life on Mars, so he was thinking about how life interacts with its environment on a planetary scale. And Margulis was famed for her ideas about symbiosis.

    This intellectual background led to the idea that organisms are not just passive inhabitants riding a big rock that determined whether they lived or died. Organisms were active participants in the molding of their environment, tweaking and improving conditions as part of a massive, self-regulating system.

    In On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship Between Life and Earth, University of Southampton Professor Toby Tyrrell sets out to comprehensively put the Gaia Hypothesis to the test, using everything we’ve learned about life and its history on our planet.”

  • Recreating the Cosmos in Our Druidic Ritual Order.” — Ian Corrigan, Into the Mound; from the we’re-made-of-star-stuff dept.

    “In my understanding, the basic steps of our Order of Ritual (OoR) amount to a recreation of the Indo-European cosmos. As in many traditional ritual systems, our rites are set in a cosmological diagram. Since our Order is written for modern, park-and-church-basement Paganism, we assume that this cosmic model must be rebuilt and reconsecrated for each ritual. Thus our sacrifices open with rites for consecrating the space and establish it as a gathering-place for the Gods & Spirits.”

  • A new “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, presented by Fox and National Geographic, guest appearance by Giordano Bruno in the premiere [also]; from the we-are-a-way-for-the-cosmos-to-know-itself dept.

     

  • Petra monuments oriented according to celestial events” — Past Horizons; from the summer-sunday-and-a-year dept.

    “During the winter solstice, the sun is filtered into the Monastery at Petra, Jordan, illuminating the podium of a deity. Just at this moment, the silhouette of the mountain opposite draws the head of a lion, a sacred animal. These are examples from a study where researchers from Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias and CSIC (Spain) showed how celestial events influenced the orientation of the great constructions of the Nabataeans.”

  • Research Suggests We Unconsciously React to Events Up to 10 Seconds Before They Happen” — The Mind Unleashed [HT Reality Sandwich]; from the wake-me-up-before-you-go-go dept.

    “Can your brain detect events before they even occur? That was the stunning conclusion of a 2012 meta-analysis of experiments from seven independent laboratories over the last 35 years, which found that the human body ‘can apparently detect randomly delivered stimuli occurring 1–10 seconds in the future’ (Mossbridge, Tressoldi, & Utts, 2012). In the studies, physiological readings were taken as participants were subjected to unpredictable events designed to activate the sympathetic nervous system (for example, showing provocative imagery) as well as ‘neutral events’ that did not activate the nervous system. These readings showed that the nervous system aligned with the nature of the event (activated/not activated) — and what’s more, the magnitude of the pre-event response corresponded with the magnitude of the post-event response.”

  • Scientists unlock mystery of out-of-body experiences (aka astral trips)” — Jordan Kushins, Sploid [HT Disinformation]; from the why-am-i-up-here-what-do-they-see-in-me dept.

    “The fMRI showed a ‘strong deactivation of the visual cortex’ while ‘activating the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery,’ which includes mental imagery of bodily movement. This is the part of the brain that makes it possible for us to interact with the world. It’s what makes you feel where your body is in relation to the world.”

  • Translation of Theodor Klauser at “Mithras scholar Vermaseren on the Mithras cranks” — Roger Pearse [HT rogueclassicism]; from the let-that-be-a-lesson-to-you dept.

    “Anyone who really wants to promote scholarship may not content themselves with uniting uncontrolled ideas and research into a seductive synthesis, written in an attractive form, for the slightest critical touch causes such constructs to collapse. The established rules of scholarly method cannot be ignored with impunity; even the most gifted may not skip over the necessarily lengthy process.”

  • Priestess Najah, via tweet.

    “Queen of Conjure, sacred Marie LaVeau. Her tomb needs restoration. Donate at http://www.saveourcemeteries.org

  • Maidens, Matrons, and Magicians: Women and Personal Ritual Power in Late Antique Egypt” by Meghan Paalz McGinnis, Masters Thesis, University of Louisville, 2012; from the sparks-fly-from-her-finger-tips dept.

    “Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to a variety of material, textual, and literary evidence, the aim of this thesis is to shed light on the realities — rather than stereotypes — of an important aspect of late ancient women’s experience: the use of ritual power. Patterns of gender differentiation in late antique Egyptian magic are investigated and shown to be connected to the particular aims to which numinous powers were employed, aims which were in turn bound up with the social roles expected of each sex. The majority of this study consists of a series of case studies of different types of women’s rituals of power, which emphasize examples of significant trends in ritual iconography, praxis, and context, both those which were typical of late antique Egyptian magic as a whole, and those which were uniquely female in character. The fact that female practitioners came from a wide array of socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds is also addressed.”

  • Tutankhamun’s Blood” by Jo Marchant, Matter; from the blood-feud dept.

    “[Yehia] Gad isn’t the first to attempt to test Tutankhamun’s DNA, but he is the first to get this far. Previous efforts by foreigners were cancelled at the last minute. After decades of outside interference, Egypt’s politicians were reluctant to hand over the keys to the pharaohs’ origins—especially when the results, if dropped into the crucible of the Middle East, might prove explosive.”

  • Israel reveals eerie collection of Neolithic ‘spirit’ masks” — Ilan ben Zion [HT David Metcalfe]; from the starting-with-the-man-in-the-mirror dept.

    “With vacant sockets and jaws agape, they stare at you like the skulls of the dead. They are 9,000-year-old masks found in the Judean Desert and Hills, and they are going on display for the first time next week at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.”

  • Myrtle quoted in “Paganism in Israel: Where the Modern meets the Ancient” — Heather Greene, The Wild Hunt; from the grand-central-station dept.

    “Ever since the dawn of [humanity], even stretching back to the exits from Africa, people of different cultures have passed through this tiny country. There are places of worship to the Canaanite deities, Egyptian temples to Hathor, countless shrines to the Greek and Roman Gods, Phoenician influences and more.”

  • Consult the Oracle! [HT rogueclassicism]; from the ask-me-no-questions-i’ll-tell-you-no-lies dept.

    “The ancient Delphic Oracle was the inspiration for a recent application created by the Department of Classical Studies at the University College of London. This application will give the user the chance to have a unique experience. The application is very tempting and attractive as one can ask whatever he wishes online.” [via]

  • Shape-Shifter” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti; from the i’m-gonna-git-you-sucka dept.

    “Zeus became a swan, a bull, a satyr, gold, for love of
           Leda, Europa, Antiope, Danaë.”

  • Jesus Wept” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti; from the dacryphilia dept.

    “Some in the ancient world might have interpreted the act of weeping as evidence that Jesus was not God.”

  • Grimoire” — Michael Quinion, World Wide Words; from the cook-the-books dept.

    “The shift from book of grammar to book of magic isn’t as weird as it might seem. Few among the ordinary people in those times could read or write. For superstitious minds books were troubling objects. Who knew what awful information was locked up in them? For many people grammar meant the same thing as learning, and everybody knew that learning included astrology and other occult arts.”

  • California’s drought is so bad people are turning to witchcraft” — Holly Richmond, Grist; from the liquore-strega dept.

    “Did you know that witches help make Two-Buck Chuck? Sadly no one from The Craft is involved, but water witches are increasingly in demand in California as the state’s epic drought continues. John Franzia of the Bronco Wine Company, which makes Two-Buck Chuck and a slew of other wines, regularly uses diviners to find water underneath his California vineyards.”

  • Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics, by Marco Pasi” — Clive Bloom, Times Higher Education; from the piecemeal-social-engineering dept.

    “Pasi’s book, which has already appeared in Italian and German, proves an admirable introduction to the complex magical and political connections of this most elusive of figures. Ironically, what the book proves is the opposite of its title, which is simply that magical practice and practical politics have never mixed, and the attempt to fit them together was a doomed and ‘childish’ project. Crowley’s ‘political’ legacy lies more properly in the politics of personal liberation that he advocated and in the counterculture he helped to create.”

  • Alchemical Interpretations of Masonic Symbols in the Rituals of Russian Rosicrucians of the 18th-19th Centuries” (in Russian) — Yury Khalturin; from the watching-the-world-wake-up-from-history dept.

    “In the article symbolic mechanisms of the transmission of alchemical tradition within the Russian Rosicrucianism are analyzed. The main point of the article is the idea, that masonic symbols and their interpretations were not just a form of communicating the alchemical tradition, but also a mode of its transformation according to the principles of rosicrucian worldview. All the alchemical interpretations of masonic symbols in rosicrucian rituals could be reduced to paradigmatic and syntagmatic models. Within the ritual those symbols and interpretations realized two main functions — suggestive (creating the sacral atmosphere for getting the esoteric knowledge) and initiatic (initiation through the shift from one level of hidden sense to another), which changed social and existential status of the neophyte.”

  • Is there any super bad-ass Catholic weapon around out there?” — Benito Cereno, Burgeoning Lads of Science; from the ten-hail-marys-and-turn dept.

    “Some of these might be of dubious Catholicity, but they all at least have something to do with a saint or a relic, so there you have it.”

  • Mindscapes: The first recording of hallucinated music” — Helen Thomson, NewScientist’s Mindscapes; from the stop-children-what’s-that-sound dept.

    “‘It’s like having my own internal iPod,’ says Sylvia. While she goes about her daily life she hears music. It may sound to her as if a radio is playing, but it is entirely in her own head.

    Sylvia calls the hallucinations a nuisance, but they can be turned off, which has allowed researchers to work out what might cause them. The discovery paves the way for new treatments and hints at the cause of more common hallucinations, such as those associated with schizophrenia.”

  • Are Stonehenge’s Boulders Actually Big Bells?” — Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic [David Raffin]; from the everybody-must-get-stoned dept.

    “If you’re building a monument, why not build it out of stones that speak?

    ‘We don’t know of course that they moved them because they rang, but ringing rocks are a prominent part of many cultures,’ English archeologist Tim Darvill told the BBC. ‘Soundscapes of pre-history are something we’re really just beginning to explore.’

    It’s true. Academics and researchers are just beginning to think about what many historic places—both geographic and architectural—sounded like.”

  • Wagner & Me“, a movie with Stephen Fry, currently on Netflix; from the is-wagner-a-human-being-at-all dept.

     

  • Richard Wagner and his Operas, an online archive and resource.

     

  • Mathematicians Are Chronically Lost and Confused” — Soulskill, Slashdot; from the dazed-and-confused dept.

    “[Jeremy Kun] says it’s immensely important for mathematicians to be comfortable with extended periods of ignorance when working on a new topic. ‘The truth is that mathematicians are chronically lost and confused. It’s our natural state of being, and I mean that in a good way. …”

  • Roelof Nicolai quoted in “648 – Portolan Charts ‘Too Accurate’ to be Medieval” — Frank Jacobs, Big Think; from the maps-of-the-ancient-sea-kings dept.

    “Perhaps we should re-evaluate what we think was the state of science in Antiquity”

  • Scientists Revive a Giant 30,000 Year Old Virus From Ice” — bmahersciwriter, Slashdot; from the andromeda-strain dept.

    “It might be terrifying if we were amoebae. Instead, it’s just fascinating. The virus, found in a hunk of Siberian ice, is huge, but also loosely packaged, which is strange says evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie: ‘We thought it was a property of viruses that they pack DNA extremely tightly into the smallest particle possible, but this guy is 150 times less compacted than any bacteriophage [viruses that infect bacteria]. We don’t understand anything anymore!'”

Events at Treadwell’s for February and March, 2014

Here is a selection from the upcoming events at Treadwell’s Books in London for February and March, 2014, which may be of interest.

Treadwell's Books in London

 

Antinous: Last God of the Ancient World
24 February 2014
John J Johnston

John J Johnston Antinous at Treadwell's Books

When, in 130 AD, the beautiful youth Antinous, favourite of the Roman emperor Hadrian, drowned in the Nile, under suspicious circumstances Hadrian proclaimed him a god and his cult survived until the eventual fall of the Empire. Drawing upon archaeological and textual sources, tonight’s lecture explores Antinous’ religious and artistic legacy from the time of his death and apotheosis until the modern age, and examines the importance of his name and image to gay men since the 18th Century. John J Johnston is Vice-Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society. This event celebrates LGBT History Month.

Price: £7
Time: 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start

 

Crowley and Politics
19 March 2014
Book Launch Party with Marco Pasi

Marco Pasi Crowley and Politics at Treadwell's Books

Tonight join us for the launch party of a seminal study of Crowley’s relationship with the politics of his times, published by Acumen. Crowley sought an alternative way to express his religious feelings, which led him to elaborate his own vision of political and social radical change: he announced a new era, echoing the ideal of a new man proposed by the totalitarian regimes and the radical politics of his era. Author Marco Pasi has worked with many unpublished documents and his study offers fresh insights. Joining us at the launch is Marco Pasi, Assistant Professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. Signed copies will be available on the night. Please note this event is a book launch party and not a formal lecture.

Price: Free but reply essential to be added to guest list
Time: 7pm to 9:30pm, speeches 7:46pm

 

The Oldest Sex Magic Text?
20 March 2014
Lecture — An Early Mesopotamian Tablet

The Oldest Sex Magic Text? at Treadwell's Books

A very early tablet, written in cuneiform, refers enigmatically to a sex magic act. Our speaker tonight reveals this brief but important discovery and uses it to shed light on ancient Mesopotamian ideas of ‘sacred marriage’, goddess power, sovereignty, hallucinogenic drugs and — yes — sex magic. Our speaker is an academic scholar in the field with a deep interest in magic. Tonight is for everyone with a fondness for Ishtar, Ereshkigal, Inanna, Enkidu, Tammuz, Pazuzu and the wonderful world of the Tigris-Euprhates valley. This is a repeat lecture: those who came in January and wish to re-attend may do so without charge: please email or ring.

Price: £7. Ring 0207 419 8507 or book online
Time: 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start

 

Alchemy’s Mutus Liber
24 March 2014
Paul Cowlan

Paul Cowlan Alchemy's Mutus Liber at Treadwell's Books

The Mutus Liber (The ‘silent’ or ‘symbolic’ Book), first appeared in the town of La Rochelle in 1677. The author ‘Altus’, is now thought to be Isaac Baulot, a local apothecary and physician. There is no text, and the work consists of fifteen plates apparently illustrating an alchemical process, a process which inspired the successful plant alchemy of Armand and Jacqueline Barbault in the 1960s. Some believe it to be entirely psycho-spiritual in its intent, while others interpret it qabbalistically. In this illustrated talk Paul explores each plate, offering comments and suggestions on the symbolism .We promise an enriching exploration of one of alchemy’s most famous enigmas. Paul Cowlan is a spiritual alchemist of over twenty years’ experience and a popular speaker.

Price: £7
Time: 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start

 

Magic in 17th Century England
26 March 2014 (Wednesday)
Alexander Cummins

Alexander Cummins Magic in 17th Century England at Treadwell's Books

Seventeenth-century England — with its Civil Wars, Revolution, and Restoration — was a tumultuous place. It was also a period where early modern people consulted astrologers, magicians, and cunning-folk for a variety of occult services and magical objects. The stars’ influence was traced in all aspects of life: from planting crops, to political propaganda, to medical care and guidance counselling. In investigating early modern English astrology, this lecture will explore fascinating historical perspectives on the nature of time, meaning and human life. Alexander Cummins is an historian of magic and emotion. He is currently finishing his doctorate at the University of Bristol.

Price: £7
Time: 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start

Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics

Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics [also] by Marco Pasi, a 2013 paperback from Acumen Publishing, with a cover featuring The Vulcan of Fortune by Fredrik Söderberg, has arrived at the Reading Room courtesy of the publisher.

Marco Pasi Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics from Acumen Publishing

“Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) is one of the most famous and infamous individuals in the history of western esotericism. But the stories of magi­cal and sexual practice that circulate about Crowley have served to ob­scure both the man and his influence. Aleister Crowley and the Tempta­tion of Politics looks at the man behind the myth and the development of his ideas through his extraordinarily varied writings.

Crowley was a rationalist, sympathetic to the values of the Enlighten­ment, but also a romantic and a reactionary. His search for an alternative way to express his religious feelings led him to elaborate his own vision of social and political change. Crowley’s complex politics led to his in­volvement with many key individuals, organizations and groups of his day — the secret service of various countries, Nazi sympathizers, Russian po­litical activists, journalists and politicians of various persuasions, as well as other writers — both in Europe and America.

Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics presents a life of ideas, an examination of a man shaped by and shaping the politics of his times.” — back cover

Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism, ed. Henrik Bogdan and Martin P Starr, from Oxford University Press:

Henrik Brogdan and Martin P Starr's Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism from Oxford University Press

 

Oxford University Press has published a groundbreaking collection of academic studies concerning Aleister Crowley and his place in modern intellectual and religious history. The component chapters of Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism had been written at various points in the last twenty years, and taken together they demonstrate the considerable breadth of relevant subject matter.

The Alex Owen chapter that follows the editors’ introduction is an earlier version of a paper that was eventually incorporated into her constructive monograph The Place of Enchantment, which provides a revisionary perspective on modern occultism. In this version, she seems to be at lesser pains to make Crowley out to be a villain against liberal ethics, but she has the same uninformed regard for his later career, using one or two references to conclude that he was broken and failed after his Algerian operations of 1909. The simple fact is that his most enduring and successful work was done after that: writing Magick in Theory and Practice, reforming O.T.O., designing the Thoth Tarot, and so on.

Marco Pasi provides a valuable primer for academic readers regarding Crowley’s ideas about magic and mysticism, elucidating a tension between the materialist theorizing of Crowley’s early work and the more metaphysical concessions of the fully-initiated Beast. Pasi rightly distinguishes between the Cairo Operation of 1904 and the subsequent attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel that Crowley claimed in 1906, observing that the identification of Aiwass as Crowley’s personal genius was a later development. He errs, however, in speculating that the equivalence was formulated as late as the writing of Magick in Theory and Practice in the 1920s. In fact, it is a feature of Crowley’s 1909 vision of the Eighth Aire in The Vision and the Voice.

Volume editor Henrik Bogdan’s contribution is a solid paper that fills a lacuna in the literature on Thelema by pointing out the positive contribution of the Plymouth Brethren dispensationalist doctrine to Crowley’s idea of magical aeons. While acknowledging the contemporaneity of occultist “new age” concepts (contrasted as largely pacifist vis-a-vis the martial Aeon of Horus), Bogdan does neglect to point out the important symbolic grounding of Crowley’s hierohistory in the Golden Dawn Equinox ceremony. (For that in detail, see my web-published essay “Aeons Beyond the Three“.)

Gordan Djurdjevic’s paper presents “Aleister Crowley as Tantric Hero” in a morphological, rather than a genealogical sense, stressing the notion of functional parallel between Thelema and Tantra. He makes a sound point about the confusion over Crowley’s Tantric bona fides originating in the secondary materials of biographers and students, rather than Crowley’s own claims. But he fails to address the younger Crowley’s derision of Tantra (“follies of Vamacharya [debauchery]” in The Equinox), and omits to observe that while the older Beast claimed to have studied “numerous writings on the Tantra,” he conscientiously referred aspirant Kenneth Grant to David Curwen for sounder Tantric instruction than the Prophet of Thelema could supply.

In Richard Kaczynski’s chapter, the heroically thorough Crowley biographer provides a somewhat exhaustive exposition of a specific range of Crowley’s own sources, presenting Crowley as a synthesist of Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and phallicist theory of religion. These are certainly the ingredients that most saliently inform the O.T.O., and thus Crowley’s social/institutional legacy, and this chapter amounts first and foremost to a bibliographically-dense essay useful to readers interested in understanding precedents for Crowley’s work with O.T.O.

The Tobias Churton piece on “Aleister Crowley and the Yezidis” is admittedly speculative and conjectural, and terribly sloppy even so. Churton recklessly juggles the historical Crowley with the “‘Aleister Crowley’ of popular imagination,” while his comparisons to Yezidism are nearly all in the subjunctive. The paper goes from bad to worse as Churton provides a long concatenation of mixed-together quotes from Thelemic and Yezidi source material, distinguished from each other only in the endnotes! And then in a big wrapup, he writes like an episode of Ancient Aliens, letting loose a stream of absurd hypotheses in the form of questions (e.g. “Are Yezidis prototypes, or long-lost cousins, of Thelemites? … Was Crowley a Yezidi Prophet?”), and bashfully disdaining to answer them. As an “alternative history” video host might say: “Could these things be true??? The answer is: yes.” But they probably aren’t.

The “Frenzied Beast” paper by Matthew Rogers is excellent, but too short. The author’s conspicuous good looks are absent from the printed page, and the article would have been improved by adding further materials on Crowley’s orientation toward Neoplatonism. In particular, the augoeides doctrine in Crowley’s works should have been given more exposure in connection with the source material in Iamblichus, and there should have been a comparison of “astral travel” in Crowley’s modern occultism with its classical antecedents. Rogers is obviously aware of these features, and if he had known how long it would take this book to get to press, he probably would have expanded the scope of his paper to address them in greater detail.

Martin Starr’s chapter was first written for the prestigious Masonic research journal Ars Quatuor Coronati, and in it he attempts to explain Crowley’s relations with Freemasonry (originally to an audience composed of Masons who jealously assume the priviledged status of the United Grand Lodge of England and the “regular” bodies in its network of recognition). The chapter certainly presents a credible narrative to account for the development of Crowley’s distaste for and derision of Freemasonry. Since its original publication in 1995 however, this paper’s judgment of Crowley’s Masonic standing has received a considered rebuttal from David R. Jones, who also explains some of the technical terminology of Masonic organizing that Starr’s piece takes for granted. The relevant features of Crowley’s American period have been fleshed out in Kaczynski’s Panic in Detroit: The Magician and the Motor City.

The real opinions and motives in the relationship between Aleister Crowley and Arthur Edward Waite are a considerable enigma, and the chapter by Robert A. Gilbert provides as complete a picture of their interactions as one could reasonably expect on the basis of the surviving evidence, which makes for very interesting reading. Unfortunately, the closing paragraphs expose Gilbert’s hostility toward Crowley, offering condemnation in a nonsensical comparison with Waite. Supposedly, Waite left (in his writings?) a real means of attainment to later generations, while Crowley did not. And Gilbert derides the contemporary O.T.O. in terms that have had debatable applicability in earlier decades, but are certainly false now. Or is Gilbert here tipping his hand as an exponent for some survival of Waite’s Christianized “Holy Order of the Golden Dawn”? In the end, the matter is no clearer than the true sentiments of the dead occultists.

In another of the collection’s older papers, Massimo Introvigne offers a few startling errors about Crowley (e.g. claims that Crowley hated his father, that Leah Hirsig was his first Scarlet Woman), but none of them have much bearing on his fascinating central topic of Crowley’s admiration for Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Of the various papers in the volume, this is one of those which touches most directly on a larger theoretical issue of scholarship, in exploring the distinction between religion and magic in the inspiring and organizing of new sects. Sadly, Introvigne simply assumes the “magic” character (by his own definitions) of the revelation of Liber AL vel Legis, without any actual inquiry into or discussion of the Cairo working. In this chapter, Crowley ultimately serves as a hostile witness for the defense in an effort to exonerate Mormonism against accusations of having a magical basis. Not that Crowley was hostile to (his own notion of) Mormonism, but he would have wanted to see it convicted of magick!

In Ronald Hutton’s book The Triumph of the Moon (2000) he provided in one chapter what was at that time the most fair and thorough study of Crowley’s influence on the origins of modern religious witchcraft. His chapter here does not merely rehash that material, but updates it with new findings and perspectives. Unlike Introvigne, Hutton does perceive the properly religious character of Crowley’s 1904 revelation and consequent activities. However, he wants to dismiss the religious dimension of Thelema on the (somewhat justifiable) basis of the magical-rather-than-religious orientation of many latter-day Thelemites. It is an understandable position for him, in defense of his slogan touting Wicca as “the only fully formed religion that England has ever given the world.” (In light of the patently and confessedly religious nature of O.T.O., I would suggest a different gambit to Hutton: The revelation in Cairo to the globe-trotting adventurer Crowley, the German roots of O.T.O., and the subsequent formation of the first durable Thelemic communities outside of Britain indicates that Thelema isn’t so much a product of “England” as it is an inherently intercultural, cosmopolitan synthesis.) As in The Triumph of the Moon, Hutton is here focused on English witchcraft, especially as formulated by Gerald Gardner. He consequently gives no attention to the witcheries of American Jack Parsons and Australian Rosaleen Norton, both strongly influenced by Crowley themselves, and not via Gardner’s work.

The case of Norton is taken up in a study by Keith Richmond, who does her full justice. Adding nothing substantial to the reader’s knowledge of Crowley, Richmond instead illuminates Norton’s regard for and understanding of Crowley. She seems to have been friendlier to Crowley’s work in private than in public, which is understandable, in that she had no need to borrow notoriety!

Hugh Urban’s chapter treats Crowley’s possible influence on L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology. Urban does some contextual violence to various Crowley quotes from Magick in Theory and Practice, but his readings may be consistent with the way Hubbard approached the material, so for immediate purposes there’s not much point in arguing about them. The chapter’s thesis is the conclusion that any dispassionate observer should reach: Hubbard was influenced by Crowley, but Scientology incorporates so many other elements — some others of which have come to predominate while the ones rooted in magick have faded — that it would be false to simply view it as some sort of crypto-Thelema.

The final chapter, contributed by Asbjørn Dyrendal, is an assessment of Crowley’s influence on two of the seminal organizers of contemporary Satanism: Anton LaVey and Michael Aquino, of the Church of Satan and Temple of Set respectively. Although there is a little confusion of the distinct notions of “black magic” and the “Black Brotherhood” in Crowley’s work, this examination is conducted with great care and accuracy on the whole, pointing out both debts to Crowley and explicit rejections by Satanists of some of his teachings. It is interesting to contrast the Satanists’ criticisms of Crowley with Urban’s appraisals of him, since they come to such different conclusions. (While I differ with their ultimate valuations, I think the Satanists are more accurate here.) Although Dyrendal touches briefly on LaVey’s successor Peter Gilmore, he keeps the discussion very focused on the two Satanist founder figures, and it would have been interesting to bring in some of Don Webb’s outspoken opinions on Crowley, for example (he wrote a short monograph called Aleister Crowley: The Fire and the Force), thus demonstrating Crowley’s direct effects on the enduring Satanist milieu.

With a few minor exceptions, the level of scholarship in this volume is impressive. More than that, the papers tend to be lively and challenging reading. As Wouter Hanegraaff points out in his foreword, the caricature of Crowley as a quasi-medieval Doctor Faustus conceals a figure who is quintessentially modern, and to give the Beast his third dimension places him in the same space that the reader inhabits. [via]

 

 

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Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism, Part 1 of 3

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus posts the first part of a response to Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism, ed. Henrik Bogdan and Martin P Starr, from Oxford University Press, over on his blog at “Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism, Part 1 of 3” which speaks to essays by Alex Owen, Marco Pasi, Henrik Bogdan, Gordan Djurdjevic, and Richard Kaczynski.

“Last year, Oxford University Press published a groundbreaking collection of academic studies concerning Aleister Crowley and his place in modern intellectual and religious history. The component chapters of Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism had been written at various points in the last twenty years, and taken together they demonstrate the considerable breadth of relevant subject matter. I am in the process of reading the chapters that I hadn’t yet gotten around to exploring, and I’ll be registering my reactions to all of the book’s contents in a short series of posts here.” [via]

September 1930, Lisbon: Aleister Crowley’s lost diary of his Portuguese trip

September 1930, Lisbon: Aleister Crowley’s lost diary of his Portuguese trip” (Note: the link goes to a PDF) by Marco Pasi is an article in Number 1, Spring 2012 of Pesso Plural, a publication of research about Fernando Pessoa published by Brown University, Utrecht University and Universidad de los Andes. In addition to the article itself, there’s also a series of images of the diary typescript itself you will probably find interesting.

“Aleister Crowley’s diary for the period of his travel to Portugal and his meeting with Fernando Pessoa has long been considered lost or inaccessible. However, a copy has been finally found and is here presented and published for the first time. The analysis of the diary allows us to have a fuller knowledge of Crowley’s movements and activities while in Portugal and especially of his meetings with Fernando Pessoa. It also clarifies some aspects of the famous Boca do Inferno suicide stunt in which Pessoa was directly involved and brings some new clues concerning a possible initiation of Pessoa in one of Crowley’s magical orders.”

“O diário de Aleister Crowley referente ao período da sua viagem a Portugal e ao seu encontro com Fernando Pessoa considerava-se, há muito tempo, perdido ou inacessível. Porém, uma cópia do mesmo foi finalmente localizada e é aqui apresentada e publicada pela primeira vez. A análise do diário permite-nos ter um conhecimento mais completo dos movimentos e das actividades de Crowley aquando da sua estadia em Portugal e, nomeadamente, do seu encontro com Fernando Pessoa. Também esclarece certos aspectos da famosa encenação do suicídio de Crowley na Boca do Inferno, encenação na qual Pessoa esteve directamente envolvido, e fornece algumas novas pistas relativas a possível iniciação de Pessoa numa das ordens mágicas de Crowley.” [via]

The Nightmare Paintings

The Nightmare Paintings: Aleister Crowley is an exhibition of Aleister Crowley works in Australia. Currently there doesn’t appear to be much information available about the exhibition, but you may be interested in the limited edition exhibition catalogue, of which only 666 will be made and is scheduled for November 2012.

“Limited edition exhibition catalogue with full colour reproductions to commemorate the first major exhibition of Aleister Crowley in Australia.

Essays by Marco Pasi, Giuseppe Di Liberti, Stephen J King, William Breeze, Tobias Churton and Robert Buratti.” [via]

Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism

You may be interested in Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism (and via Amazon), edited by Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr, and scheduled for August 2012 from Oxford University Press and September via other retailers like Amazon. The hardcover is listed at a steep $99, but there’s a $35 paperback due in Sept (and via Amazon).

“Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr offer the first comprehensive examination of one of the twentieth century’s most distinctive occult iconoclasts. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a study in contradictions. He was born into a Fundamentalist Christian family, then educated at Cambridge where he experienced both an intellectual liberation from his religious upbringing and a psychic awakening that led him into the study of magic. He was a stock figure in the tabloid press of his day, vilified during his life as a traitor, drug addict and debaucher; yet he became known as the perhaps most influential thinker in contemporary esotericism.

The practice of the occult arts was understood in the light of contemporary developments in psychology, and its advocates, such as William Butler Yeats, were among the intellectual avant-garde of the modernist project. Crowley took a more drastic step and declared himself the revelator of a new age of individualism. Crowley’s occult bricolage, Magick, was a thoroughly eclectic combination of spiritual exercises drawing from Western European ceremonial magical traditions as practiced in the nineteenth-century Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley also pioneered in his inclusion of Indic sources for the parallel disciplines of meditation and yoga. The summa of this journey of self-liberation was harnessing the power of sexuality as a magical discipline, an instance of the “sacrilization of the self” as practiced in his co-masonic magical group, the Ordo Templi Orientis. The religion Crowley created, Thelema, legitimated his role as a charismatic revelator and herald of a new age of freedom under the law of “Do what thou wilt.”

The influence of Aleister Crowley is not only to be found in contemporary esotericism-he was, for instance, a major influence on Gerald Gardner and the modern witchcraft movement-but can also be seen in the counter-culture movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and in many forms of alternative spirituality and popular culture. This anthology, which features essays by leading scholars of Western esotericism across a wide array of disciplines, provides much-needed insight into Crowley’s critical role in the study of western esotericism, new religious movements, and sexuality.” [via]

“Foreword – Wouter J. Hanegraaff
1. Introduction – Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr
2. The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Aleister Crowley and the Magical Exploration of Edwardian Subjectivity – Alex Owen
3. Varieties of Magical Experience: Aleister Crowley’s Views on Occult Practice – Marco Pasi
4. Envisioning the Birth of a New Aeon: Dispensationalism and Millenarianism in the Thelemic Tradition – Henrik Bogdan
5. The Great Beast as a Tantric hero: The Role of Yoga and Tantra in Aleister Crowley’s Magick – Gordan Djurdjevic
6. Continuing Knowledge from Generation unto Generation: The Social and Literary Background of Aleister Crowley’s Magick – Richard Kaczynski
7. Aleister Crowley and the Yezidis – Tobias Churton
8. The Frenzied Beast: The Phaedran Furores in the Rites and Writings of Aleister Crowley – Matthew D. Rogers
9. Aleister Crowley: Freemason! – Martin P. Starr
10. “The One Thought that was not Untrue”: Aleister Crowley and A. E. Waite – Robert R. Gilbert
11. The Beast and the Prophet: Aleister Crowley’s Fascination with Joseph Smith – Massimo Introvigne
12. Crowley and Wicca – Ronald Hutton
13. Through the Witch’s Looking Glass: The Magick of Aleister Crowley and the Witchcraft of Rosaleen Norton – Keith Richmond
14. The Occult Roots of Scientology? L. Ron Hubbard, Aleister Crowley and the Origins of the World’s Most Controversial New Religion – Hugh Urban
15. Satan and the Beast. The Influence of Aleister Crowley on Modern Satanism – Asbjorn Dyrendal” [via]

Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics

You may be interested in Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics (via Amzn) an apparently still upcoming book by Marco Pasi. According to the publisher’s page for the book, this was scheduled for June 2012, but is also listed there as not yet published. Amazon lists the publication date as December 31, 2011.

The figure of Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) is one of the most important authors in the history of modern western esotericism. A prolific and eclectic author, he wrote novels, poetry, essays, and, above all, developed in his many writings his personal magico-religious doctrine. During his life he had the opportunity to meet, and at times to influence, a considerable number of figures in the most various milieus. This volume contains a study of Crowley’s relationship with the politics of his times, a crucial issue in order to understand the importance and the influence of his work.

Crowley, educated in the late Victorian age, shows many of the contradictions of this period. The search for an alternative way to express his religious feelings lead him to elaborate his own vision of political and social radical change. He announced a new era echoing the ideal of a “new man” proposed by the totalitarian regimes and the radical politics of his times, and at the same time anticipated some ideas made fashionable today by the “New Age” spirituality. The book follows the steps of Crowley’s intellectual development on the basis of the enormous corpus of published writings, but also through the analysis of numerous unpublished documents.

According to the publisher the contents include a biographical sketch; Magical Politics, including Between mysticism and religion, The Liber Legis, Political radicalism and totalitarian regimes & Magic; Dangerous liaisons, including J.F.C. Fuller, Tom Driberg, Walter Duranty, Gerald Hamilton & Maxwell Knight; The Mouth of Hell & Fernando Pessoa’s political mysticism; Counter-initiation and conspiracy.

The publisher also offers a short bio of the the author you may be curious to read:

“Marco Pasi is Assistant Professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. He earned his PhD in 2004 at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sorbonne with a thesis on the idea of magic in English occultism. He is the book review editor of Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism and a member of the editorial board of Politica Hermetica.”

Certainly seems like an interesting lens through which to examine the life and work of Aleister Crowley, but the typically exorbitant fee for a scholarly work is daunting at $85 US. Anyone want to buy a copy for the Hermetic Library to review?