Aleister Crowley remains the most published occultist of the 20th century. His life, impact and teachings reflect the upheaval of conventional political structures, fragmentation of social hierarchy and resignation for Christendom at the turn of the 20th century. However, his exposure and teachings were wrought with controversy and complex “moral” dilemmas.
Crowley, raised as an evangelical Christian, moved continuously from one school to another throughout his childhood. His inability to remain in one place stemmed largely from his “outsider” perspective. Crowley openly slept with prostitutes, advocated himself as bisexual, experimented with drugs, and renounced Christian ideals in a post-victorian era.
However, Crowley continued to receive top marks in school and regularly published works of prose, poetry and social criticism. As a result, Crowley’s otherwise disdainful behavior allowed him to seriously pursue his study of the occult and mysticism.
Crowley’s academic career led him to study the occult at Cambridge where he met fellow occultist Samuel Mathers, co-founder of the occult group the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Together they not only published writings, but they also practiced magick,western esotericism and mysticism. Mathers introduced Crowley to drug induced enlightenment which became a staple for his research and findings.
During his studies, Crowley traveled the world visiting epicenters of mysticism like Algeria, India, Central America and Egypt. On his honeymoon to Egypt, Crowley claims to have come face to face with Aiwass a messenger for Egyptian deity Horus. During this enlightenment, Crowley recorded his inner voice of Hours, thus writing the Book of the Law. “Do what thall wilt” became the leading principle of Crowley’s new world order, Thelema. In Thelema, Crowley was the new prophet that would lead the world to abandon its previous christian notions and adopt the mysticism of Thelema.
Crowley, however, felt burdened by his massive undertaking and self-imposed prophethood. As a result, he temporarily laid Thelema to rest while he continued to practice homoerotic rituals, mystic chants and sometimes blood sacrifices.
Eventually, he returned to Thelema under the new title of A. A.. A. A.. became a new occult order in England founded upon the principles of the Hermetic Order. His publication of Hermetic inspired rituals led to a legal battle with former friend Mathers. While Crowley won the trial, the press blasphemed him and christened him “the wickedest man to live.”
Crowley, however, proudly embraced his place outside of society and the celebrity status that came with it. After founding A. A.., Crowley continued to pursue his occult research and traveled with his new partner Victor Neuburg. Both used drug induced rituals to enlighten their publications and research. Which eventually led to Crowley’s battle with heroine addiction.
In his later life, Crowley continued to preach the teachings of Thelema. His students would adopt and adapt his work even after his death at the age of 72 (1875-1941). At his funeral, several of Crowley’s closest friends and colleagues gathered to read excerpts from his life work. An outraged press would later christen Crowly’s funeral as “The Black Mass.