I’ve shared things on Aleister Crowley in the past (such as the Coffee consecration ) and I noticed many of you found that useful! So for this week’s Witchy challenge I decided to go a bit further into decyphering who he was.
The Link Between Aleister Crowley and Wicca ⛤
I discovered Mr. Crowley’s work as a teenager but couldn’t really connect with him. I felt I wasn’t sure who he really was or what he believed. Was he a Pagan? a Christian? Satanist? Only recently I came upon some of his quotes which really helped me connect the dots.
This is what I learned about him reading A. Crowley’s chapter in Prof. Hutton’s book Triumph of The Moon. In summary, this is how Aleister Crowley relates to Wicca and Neopaganism.
Who was the Real Mr. Crowley?
The short answer is that he had 4 personalities when it comes to his views on religions and the truth: He was a “satanist”, a “polytheist”, a “monotheist”, and a “Neopagan”. Really!
Mr. Crowley’s Four Personalities
1. The Savage Pagan
This idea of paganism as a religion of gloom and gore was used to paint Christianity as the religion of the civilized people of European cities, and was preserved well into the 20th century.
Aleister Crowley, like many pagans even today, was inspired by this idea of paganism as a dark and macabre thing. Think of the Gothic Witch in The 3 Types of Witches.
For example, In his book Moonchild, Crowley speaks of “‘the fearful deities of man’s dawn, when nature was supposed to be a personal power of cruelty, delighting in murder, rape, and pillage’ and ‘children were cast into the fire, or thrown to bears, or offered up in sacrifice on bloody altars.”
At times, Crowley called himself the Beast 666 and identified as Baphomet. His Book of Law. according to Ronald Hutton is an almost precise reversal of the morality of the New Testament.
2. The Neoclassical (Greco-Roman inspired)
This one is connected to the interpretation of paganism towards the 19th century, when Greek and Romans became associated with magnificent art, literature and philosophy. Now Europeans were starting to see the ancient deities as interesting allegorical or mythical figures that they could use in written works, paintings and sculptures.
Aleister Crowly has a polytheist facet, especially in the “Paris working” with Victor Neuburg. These two magicians would invoke major Graeco-Roman deities, treating them essentially like spirits to be summoned and worked with. This is when he wrote the Hymn to Pan, and he famously invoked Mercury and Jupiter in a hotel room.
Crowley’s favourite pagan pantheon was the Egyptian one, and accorded his deities a special place of honour. Near the end of his life he declared that the ‘Egyptian Theogony is the noblest, the most truly magical, the most bound to me (or rather I to it) by some inmost instinct’ and that he used it ‘for all work of supreme import’
3. The Monotheist (Theosophist)
Using his own quotations, it is also possible to make the claim that he was a monotheist. His third magical personality depended on the notion that there had once existed a single great world spiritual system, based upon divine revelation, of which the main religions practised by civilized humanity during historical times all contained traces.
This idea of an eclectic, multicultural religion would become what is known as Theosophy. A system of spirituality and philosophy which blends Eastern and Western mysticism, based on a veneration of the sun. While not strictly “pagan”, it was part of an “occult revival” that took place during the late 19th century along with other groups like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
One of the instructions which he wrote for his Ordo Templi Orientis says
“in the macrocosm is one sole God, the Sun”.
Another declares that ‘God in Spirit and Truth is one.’
4. The Neopagan
His fourth personality matches that which later became Neopaganism.
This Modern form of paganism has its origin in Romanticism, and is a fusion of three powerful forces: admiration for ancient Greece, nostalgia for a vanished rural past, and desire for an unity between people, culture, and nature.
German and English poets had been turning against Christianity, yearning for a kind of paganism which was synonym with freedom, ancient knowledge and kinship with nature.
Crowley was inspired by this movement and eventually wrote:
“The time is just ripe for a natural religion. People like rites and ceremonies, and they are tired of hypothetical gods. Insist on the real benefits of the sun, the Mother-Force, the Father-Force and so on; and show that by celebrating these benefits worthily the worshippers unite themselves more fully with the current of life. Let the religion be Joy, but with a worthy and dignified sorrow in death itself; and treat death as an ordeal, an initiation.”
Near the end of his life, he instructed a pupil simply to “choose the religious system most convenient to you and to your work”.
Crowley was eventually introduced to Gerald Gardner. They became friends, with Crowley authorising Gardner to revive Britain’s ailing O.T.O. The writings of Aleister Crowley were instrumental in Gardner becoming the founder of the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca.
I think Aleister Crowley was an early eclectic Witch and his work was a vital step in the foundation of neopagan movements and religions. Following his words: Let the religion be Joy!