Aleister Crowley Frequently Asked Questions
Alternative Religion/ Library
Was Aleister Crowley a Satanist?
This is one of the most common misconceptions about Aleister Crowley. If by this question one means, did Crowley worship the being commonly known to Christians as Satan, the answer is an unequivocal no. Crowley's ideas of deity did not fit the typical mold; in his views, gods were symbolic of forces and powers to aid the spiritual explorer in his theurgic journey. Crowley at no time believed in a living demonic being deserving of worship. Crowley's religious practice, as it were, was inherently theurgic, dedicated solely to self discovery. Crowley espoused no dogma relating to god or gods and generally despised blind worship and dogmatic belief.
Was Crowley a Black Magician?
Certainly not. See above. Crowley's magick, as explored in voluminous writings, was centered on theurgic self discovery, self mastery, and experience of the divine. Crowley's "Law of Thelema" expressly forbids interference with the will of another, making black magick an impossibility. Said Crowley of Black magicians:
"To practice black magic you have to violate every principle of science, decency and intelligence . You must be obsessed with an insane idea of the importance of the petty object or your wretched and selfish desires ... I despise the thing to such an extent that I can hardly believe in the existence of people so debased and idiotic as to practice it."
Did Crowley really sacrifice children?
No. Most of the rumors concerning "child sacrifice" stem from disingenuous misquoting of a passage from his book Magick in Theory and Practice:
"For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim. "
Even though he is quoting someone else, taken out of context, this seems pretty damning. However, Crowley was in fact discussing ritual masturbation, which he believed constituted a form of "sacrifice," according to the old biblical idea of preventing contraception by "spilling seed." As he explains in his footnote on the same page, "... 'It is the sacrifice of oneself spiritually. And the intelligence and innocence of that male child are the perfect understanding of the Magician, his one aim, without lust of result. And male he must be, because what he sacrifices is not the material blood, but his creative power.' ..."
In reality, Crowley considered even abortion to be a crime and certainly never advocated child murder, which is quite evident if one delves into his writings.
Human sacrifice would also be against Crowley's "Law of Thelema," which considers it a grave sin to interfere with the will of another person. This of course takes all the fun out of it for the hysterics, who continue to gleefully recount this passage as a literal truth.
For more on this topic, see: Crowley and Tantric Magick :The Beast Demystified
But didn't Crowley say "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law?"
Certainly he did, this statement and its corollary "Love is the Law, Love under Will" are the underpinnings of Crowley's philosophy of Thelema. Yet "Do what thou wilt" was never given as a license to party and pillage. To Crowley, "Will" was one's dharma, the fulfillment of one's universal destiny. While he wasn't the strongest advocate of 'turning the other cheek,' he never implied that it was okay to do whatever your impulses lead you to do- that would in fact be the opposite of the Law of Thelema, which requires one to aspire to absolute self realization.
An explanation of the "Law of Thelema" from a Thelemic perspective.
Did Crowley author early Wiccan rituals?
Yes but it is pretty clear he never did so intentionally. Wicca founder Gerald Gardner was an initiate of the OTO under Crowley, material that material used in Gardner's third degree Wiccan initiation ritual is lifted directly from Crowley's "Gnostic Mass," written for the OTO in 1913.
Did Crowley invent the "Unicursal Hexagram?"
No. The emblem was created by the Golden Dawn and adapted by Crowley for his own use. For more, see: Unicursal Hexagram
Did Crowley institute the practice of spelling "magick" with a "k?"
This practice, which was meant to differentiate stage illusion from theurgic magick was popularized by Crowley, but it was originally revived from an Elizabethan usage by nineteenth century occultist Eliphas Levi. Crowley at one time expressed the belief that he was the French Magus reincarnated.
Crowley was violently opposed to Christ and Christianity...
No and yes. Crowley showed a great measure of respect for the genuine teachings of Christ, but had little respect for those of his followers that Crowley suspected behaving hypocritically and perverting the gnosis of Christ's teachings. Rightly or wrongly, Crowley even believed his OTO to have an authentic "apostolic succession" from the students of Jesus, a highly unusual claim to make if one is utterly opposed to Christ's teachings.
But didn't Crowley call himself the "Great Beast 666" and the "Anti-Christ?"
Yes. However, in doing so, Crowley did not make that claim in the sense that evangelical Christians understand it. Crowley believed in an orderly procession of ages (equinoctial or precessional ages), in which each successive age superceded the last and delineated the spiritual development of mankind. Crowley envisioned the age of the "dying God" to be at an end, and a new era of self-determination to be emergent. This emergent Aeon was defined by the child-God Horus, and the gnostic Lucifer, a Promethean figure who defied religious dogma in favor of individual discovery and self-determination. A good number of his references to himself as the "Beast" were allegorical, and others were meant as a bit of an in-joke and to titillate the shocked Victorians who reacted with exaggerated outrage at his "exploits." At no time did he consider himself in league with the forces of evil against the Will of God. (Crowley often remarked that it was not possible to go against the will of God) The "magickal name" he preferred for himself was Perdurabo, I will endure- doesn't sound terribly Satanic, does it.
Was Crowley bisexual? Homosexual?
Probably not. While Crowley certainly practiced sexual rituals with both men and women, his romantic relationships were with women. While praising the magical uses of certain forms of intercourse, the power of these rituals lay in their 'tabooness.' He expressed personal distaste for 'recreational' homosexuality.
Was Crowley a crossdresser?
Evidence says yes, but whether this was an aspect of his personality or another attempt at bucking Victorian mores is undetermined. It is known the Crowley did like to assume the persona of "Alice," which must have been a sight to see.
Was Crowley a drug addict?
Crowley experimented magically with a number of substances, and wrote many paeans to hashish, absinthe, and other drugs. He was at one time addicted to heroin, which was prescribed to him for his asthma, as was quite common at the time.
Did Crowley intentionally leave a man to die on a mountaineering expedition?
I've heard this one a number of times, but my own research indicates that just the opposite is true. Crowley, despite his "bad" reputation elsewhere, is esteemed in many mountaineering circles. Crowley was in fact forced to leave fallen comrades who were caught in an avalanche after leaving the main group during a difficult expedition. According to accounts, the men who died had decided against Crowley's advice to attempt to descend the mountain close to dark. At the time there was no possibility of rescue because most available hands went with the doomed party.
While this action may seem cold, Crowley did have a compassionate side. During a planned expedition to K2 in 1902, Crowley forced a reluctant group to abandon their attempt to reach the peak in order to save the life of a fellow climber struck with a pulmonary edema, a problem that was not well understood at the time. His actions saved the man's life.
Info found in http://altreligion.about.com/library/faqs/bl_crowleyfaq.htm