Tag Archives: oxford university press

Idols of Perversity

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture by Bram Dijkstra, from Oxford University Press.

Bram Dijkstra Idols of Perversity from Oxford University Press

Bram Dijkstra is a comparative literature professor who specializes in the relationship of literature to the visual arts. Do not be misled about this book, though. It is a book about an ideology, and only concerned with art and literature to the extent that they express and facilitate that ideology. Now, I agree with Dijkstra in large measure regarding the interaction of ideology and culture. In particular, he insists that “by retracing the visual origins of the ‘great’ literary works of turn-of-the-century writers we tend to find ourselves uncomfortably back in a world of intellectual cliches which, in their written form, were elegantly obscured by the apparent profundities embedded in the necessary ambiguities of language.” (150) He is also on-target when he remarks the many cases in which “To suggest, as cultural historians have been wont to, that paintings such as these were naive, unconscious images of archetypal sexual symbols whose real meaning the psychoanalysts were in the process of uncovering at just this time represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the anything but unconscious prurience of the nineteenth-century art world.” (301)

Alas, it pains me to report, Dijkstra makes it difficult to agree with him. His presentation is so sententious and sanctimonious that it is decidedly off-putting. I am myself a feminist, and so I tended to sympathize with the values that motivated Dijkstra to the reams of condemnations which are the meat of this book. But he never explicitly offers and justifies those values: he just seems to think they go without saying, and that makes him appear to be exchanging an old form of moralistic bigotry for a new one. Perhaps academics in California in the 1980s could afford to think of their perspective as the abundantly vindicated status quo, but that blinkered assumption doesn’t play well when addressing a larger readership.

The author is a “man with a hammer,” as the saying goes, and misogyny is his nail! There are certainly a few instances where he overplays his hand in the search for supporting instances. His appraisal of Leon Frederic’s painting “The Stream” (1900) is a special case-in-point, with overheated rhetoric that is sadly typical of Idols of Perversity:

“How nightmarish painters’ dreams of infantile flesh could ultimately become is graphically demonstrated in Leon Frederic’s monumental triptych ‘The Stream’ [VI, 25], in which this artist, ostensibly to illustrate Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ symphony, created with insane literalness the ultimate representation of the familiar equation between water, women, and the world of the child in a carnal orgy of infant flesh. When images of this sort, of this extreme paranoia, arise in man’s imagination, can Buchenwald be far behind?” (197)

All right, then. I have been fortunate enough to see the original of “The Stream” at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. (This digital reproduction of the middle panel does it even less justice than the half-page black and white version in Dijkstra’s book.) Water and children are certainly abundant in it, but I can’t figure out where it makes any sort of statement about “women.” And the impression it gave me was not one of threat founded in “paranoia,” but simply joyful exuberance. It suggested to me a hope for and confidence in the future, emblemized by an irresistible force of humans-becoming. Honi soit qui mal y pense!

Here’s another one: Dijkstra’s gloss of “The Unknown” (ca. 1912) by John Charles Dollman. (See the image here.) He insists that this painting shows “how monkeys and women, equally childlike in their ignorant astonishment, tried to cope with the concept of fire in the primeval world.” (290) Several details of the painting contradict this explanation. The sophisticated textiles worn by the woman disprove the notion that the setting is “primeval,” and her imperious gesture makes it clear that, rather than being astonished by the fire, she is using her knowledge of it to dominate the monkeys. The lack of visible fuel for the fire even makes it seem as though she has just conjured it into existence.

Many of Dijkstra’s assessments are perfectly reasonable, however, and his summaries of Victorian gender theory are clear, and probably valuable to 21st-century readers who have been sheltered from the likes of sexist savant Otto Weininger. His analysis of the codified misogyny in Stoker’s Dracula is precise and accurate, and his indictment of the vampire genre as a whole appears to be massively supported by the current Stephanie Miller Twilight phenomenon.

I had been hoping, throughout this long text, that Dijkstra might conclude on a more reflexive note, one that would observe the persistent chauvinism in late 20th-century Western culture, and how it could be grasped in terms of the earlier currents that the book studies. This hope was more than disappointed when he used his final chapter to “go full Godwin.” Not content merely to apply every negatively-charged adjective in his thesaurus to the ideological male chauvanism of the period, he goes on to postulate a causative relationship by which it led to the ascendancy of Nazi power. He had already remarked in earlier chapters, duly and sufficiently I thought, on the eliminationist rhetorical elements in the “bio-sexism” (his term) of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. But to finish the book with a meditation on Nazi genocide seemed to me like it undercut his argument as a whole, and its relevance to the reader. The sort of exceptionalism that makes the Nazi Holocaust into the great demonstration of pure evil also seems to make it into an expiation, a sobering episode that has ensured that “we” not-Nazis won’t take any of the ideological wrong-turns that were involved in Nazism.

Other than the dust jacket, there were no color reproductions among the many scores of art illustrations in the book. That was disappointing, but entirely in keeping with the authorial agenda to use these as evidence in a larger ideological thesis, rather than works of inherent interest. Strangely, the image on the front cover juxtaposed with the title Idols of Perversity is one of the few contextualizing counter-examples that Dijkstra provides. He points to Ella Ferris Pell’s “Salome” (1890) as a conceptually feminist treatment of a literary theme that had been a staple of misogynist art. In fact, this passage, along with another in the first chapter where he contrasts the gender conceptions underlying 17th- and 18th-century couples portraiture with that of the 19th century, were among the most effectively argued in the book.

My own initial interest in this book stemmed from my attraction to the Symbolist, Decadent, and Academic Orientalist schools of aesthetics, and in particular the way that many of their originally misogynist productions have been later revalorized by proponents of female sovereignty. I did get some valuable pointers to artists and authors I might otherwise have neglected, but always in the context of another interminable sentence of “guilty.” I’ll take my guilty pleasures where I can find them, thanks. [via]

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, from Oxford University Press, the 1994 College edition, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Aprocrypha

“The New Oxford Annotated Bible has been the leading study Bible for students for over twenty-five years. Now it has been fully updated with new essays and revised annotations that reflect the most recent biblical scholarship. These expanded materials, added to its original wealth of notes, essays, and maps, assure the new Annotated’s place as the premier study Bible for students and professors.” — back cover

Somewhere I Have Never Travelled

Somewhere I Have Never Travelled: The Hero’s Journey by Thomas Van Nortwick, a 1996 paperback from Oxford University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Thomas Van Nortwick Somewhere I Have Never Travelled from Oxford University Press

“Exploring the hero’s journey as a metaphor for spiritual evolution, this book combines literary, psychological, and spiritual insights to examine three ancient epics: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer’s Iliad, and Virgil’s Aeneid. Van Nortwick focuses on the relationship of the hero to one or more ‘second selves,’ or alter egos. Through these second selves the poems address central and enduring truths about human life: that heroism in pursuit of glory can lead to alienation from one’s self; and that spiritual wholeness can only be achieved through what appears, at first, to be the negation of the self. The discussion also serves as an introduction to the central themes and historical evolution of ancient epic.” — back cover

How to Kill a Dragon

How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics by Calvert Watkins, a 1995 paperback from Oxford University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Calvert Watkins How to Kill a Dragon from Oxford University Press

“In How to Kill a Dragon Calvert Watkins follows the continuum of poetic formulae in Indo-European languages, from Old Hittite to medieval Irish. He uses the comparative method to reconstruct traditional poetic formulae of considerable complexity that stretch as far back as the original common language. Thus, Watkins reveals the antiquity and tenacity of the Indo-European poetic tradition.

Watkins begins this study with an introduction to the field of comparative Indo-European poetics; he explores the Saussurian notions of synchrony and diachrony, and locates the various Indo-European traditions and ideologies of the spoken word. Further, his overview presents case studies on the forms of verbal art, with selected texts drawn from Indic, Iranian, Greek, Latin, Hittite, Armenian, Celtic, and Germanic languages.

In the remainder of the book, Watkins examines in detail the structure of the dragon/serpent-slaying myths, which recur in various guises throughout the Indo-European poetic tradition. He finds the ‘signature’ formula for the myth—the divine hero who slays the serpent or overcomes adversaries—occurs in the same linguistic form in a wide range of sources and over millennia, including Old and Middle Iranian holy books, Greek epic, Celtic and Germanic sagas, down to Armenian oral folk epic of the last century. Watkins argues that this formula is the vehicle for the central theme of a proto-text, and a central part of the symbolic culture of speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language: the relation of humans to their universe, the values and expectations of their society. Therefore, he further argues, poetry was a social necessity for Indo- European society, where the poet could confer on patrons what they and their culture valued above all else: ‘imperishable fame.'” — back cover

Introduction to “Gnosticism”

Introduction to “Gnosticism”: Ancient Voices, Christian Worlds by Nicola Denzey Lewis, from Oxford University Press, may be of interest. There’s an interesting review of the work over at Peje Iesous at “Nicola Denzey Lewis’ Textbook On the Gnostic Literature Is Really Useful (Or: Why I’m Glad My Class Failed Before It Got Off the Ground)” [HT Jared Calaway] which may also interest you, especially since it highlights this book’s apparently good exploration of the way the term “Gnosticism” can be problematic. The review seems to suggest this is a new work for 2013, but I notice that Amazon has 2012 as the publication date; but, it is at least recent for some reasonably flexible value of recent either way.

Nicola Denzey Lewis Introduction to "Gnosticism" from Oxford University Press

“Discovered in Egypt in 1945, the fascinating and challenging Nag Hammadi writings forever changed our understanding of early Christianity. State-of-the-art and the only volume of its kind, Introduction to “Gnosticism”: Ancient Voices, Christian Worlds guides students through the most significant of the Nag Hammadi texts. Employing an exceptionally lucid and accessible writing style, Nicola Denzey Lewis groups the texts by theme and genre, places them in the broader context of the ancient world, and reveals their most inscrutable mysteries.

Ideal for use in courses in Early Christianity/Origins of Christianity, Christianity to 1500, Gnostic Gospels, Gnosticism, Early Christian Writings, Orthodoxy and Heresy, and New Testament Studies, Introduction to ‘Gnosticism’ is enhanced by numerous pedagogical features, including images of the manuscripts, study and discussion questions, annotated bibliographies, tables, diagrams, and a glossary.” [via]

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 3 of 3

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus posts the third 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 3 of 3” which speaks to essays, about Witchcraft, Scientology and Satanism, by Ronald Hutton, Keith Richmond, Hugh Urban and Asbjørn Dyrendal; giving special attention to the chapter by Ronald Hutton.

“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 witchcrafts of American Jack Parsons and Australian Rosaleen Norton, both strongly influenced by Crowley themselves, and not via Gardner’s work.” [via]

“With a few minor exceptions, the level of scholarship in this volume is considerable. 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]

 

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]

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]