Kidding. Clearly, 666 facts about Aleister Crowley will not be presented here, as that would take too much space.
Still, a lot of facts about him will be presented, because Aleister Crowley (born Edward Alexander Crowley) is one of the most controversial figures in history and the man he inspired the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s. Which should come as no surprise when taking into consideration that Crowley himself claimed to be The Great Beast whose number is 666, described by John in the Book of Revelations.
Of course, as many who have studied his life and commented on its various aspects point out, one should remember that Crowley was an educated and highly intelligent man, with a gift for words and ample wit who reveled in challenging established social norms and value systems, most notably Christianity, so his words should probably never be taken literally.
Instead, one can see his claim as a metaphorical one. Meaning that, by his thoughts and actions, he represented an opposite to the way of doing things taken for granted in the Western World, a challenger of the status quo.
So, in essence, the Crowley demon persona should be interpreted as him being akin to the Great Beast of Revelations, which has the same function of destroying everything (albeit presumably in a literal manner), but not the actual Beast per se. The same being true of the Aleister Crowley satanist image he has acquired after his death, in more recent times.
So, who was he?
Edward Alexander Crowley was an Englishman born in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK on the 12th of October 1875.
His father was a devout Christian and a travelling preacher for Plymouth Brethren, part of the fundamentalist Christian sect the Exclusive Brethren and a major influence on Aleister Crowley in early life, which explains his later fascination with mysticism and the occult as well as possibly his revolt against Christianity.
He didn’t get along with his mother who described him as “the Beast” which he enjoyed greatly and only served to make him misbehave more.
He studied at Cambridge from 1895 to 1898, initially enrolling to study Philosophy, but then changing to English Literature. While here he wrote poems, expertly played chess and continued to cultivate what would become a life-long passion for mountaineering (including performing his first remarkable mountaineering feats around this time).
It is also speculated that he was recruited by the British secret services while at Cambridge and it seems like he was interested in a career in “diplomacy” in Russia, by his own admission. However, he would abandon such plans in 1897 after a brief illness. And so, he would turn his interest to the occult, which would occupy him for the rest of his life, along with continuing to write poetry, go mountaineering, paint and other pursuits.
2. The HOGD
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was the first time that Aleister Crowley was exposed to an organized group of occultists. He got into the organization by the introduction from Julian L. Baker (a chemist interested in alchemy as Crowley was, which he met while in Switzerland) to George Cecil Jones who was a member of Golden Dawn.
However, it was not meant to be a good, long relationship. Because Crowley’s abrasive personality and pugnacious attitude would manage to irritate some elders of the group, among which Arthur Edward Waite and the renowned poet William Butler Yeats.
When he was initiated, Aleister Crowley was given the magical name “Frater Perdurabo”, which is taken to figuratively mean “Brother, I shall endure to the end”, but in a literal translation from Latin it is simply “Brother Vigor”.
Tying in to the speculation about his secret service recruitment, it is also assumed that he was actually set the task of infiltrating the organization in order to keep an eye on it for the British secret service.
It definitely plays a major role in all of Crowley’s teachings and the whole system of magick that he built, which will be mentioned below.
But it also played a major role in his everyday life too and can be argued that it has shaped his life in its entirety as well as his psychology, even from a biological point of view.
The thing is, Aleister Crowley started his sex life early, losing his virginity at the age of 14 to a family maid. From that point onward, he continued to be very sexually active, indeed a womanizer, and he was perfectly comfortable with being publicly promiscuous during his whole life, including having frequent sex with prostitutes.
This latter practice led to him getting his first sexual disease (gonorrhea) barely three years after losing his virginity. But it would not be the last. As he also contracted syphilis from a prostitute while a student at Cambridge.
Since syphilis is known to affect the brain in its later development, you can see why the mention above regarding his sexual life being a major influence on his life, as well as his psychology, even from a biological perspective, is a valid point.
And speaking of societal effects of his sexuality on his life, he also discovered his bisexuality early in his youth, (biographers speculate that during his Cambridge years), which is another reason why he was kicked out of the Golden Dawn.
Because, although other members were bisexual or homosexual too, such practices were illegal at the time and Aleister Crowley was not discreet about it.
4. Books, teachings and works
Probably the most important and famous Aleister Crowley book is Liber AL vel Legis, or “The Book Of The Law”, because that’s where it all started, as concerns Crowley’s major and lasting influence on modern Western occultism and Wicca.
And it was this book that gave rise to the religion that Crowley founded called Thelema (which the English transliteration of the Greek word “will”), whose main tenet is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”.
In short, when he was in Egypt with his wife Rose in 1904, Aleister Crowley claims to have come in contact with his guardian angel named Aiwass who, as the messenger of Horus, told Crowley that a new age of mankind has come under this god’s rule, characterized by the supreme moral tenet mentioned above, in which people must learn to live in harmony with their Will.
As such, Aleister Crowley was to be the prophet of Horus and spread the teachings and commandments he delivered with the help of Aiwass during three whole days to the whole word and translate the book in all languages.
Oddly enough, Crowley himself claims that initially he resented his being chosen and just sent the manuscript to other occultists he knew, then ignored it.
But later Aleister Crowley did develop Thelema in earnest. And the mentions above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his prolific dedication to writing occult material. Keyword being occult, meaning “only for initiates” or “knowledge of the hidden”, coming from the Latin “hidden, secret”.
Because Crowley’s works are cryptic, allegorical and symbolic, (presumably) requiring magickal instruction from a Thelemite in order to be understood.
One can search on the Internet The Book of Lies Aleister Crowley to see possibly the most cryptic example.
And if the search were The Book of Thoth Aleister Crowley instead, the reader would discover the text that he wrote as accompaniment to the Aleister Crowley tarot cards version that he created.
5. Death and aftermath
Before talking of his real death, it’s worth mentioning his fake death.
In character with his love of mischief and chaos, Crowley meticulously faked his death in 1930 just for laughs. While at the Boca Do Inferno (in Portugal, near Lisbon) he planted a note which talked about him being heart-broken and implied that he had jumped to his death.
With the help of his friend, Portuguese Fernando Pessoa he also managed to fool the newspapers who picked up the story and made it known. The whole thing was revealed as a prank when Crowley made his unannounced appearance in Berlin at an exhibition for some of his paintings.
He did really die though (despite many conspiracy theories and wishful thinking to the contrary) in 1947, December the 1st, due to a combination of conditions, the main one being chronic bronchitis on top of which he also suffered from myocardial degeneration and pleurisy.
Based on his reputation, when one pictures his death, one tends to do so in the form of a spectacular event. More like The Aleister Crowley Death involving great magick at hand and a good show.
Sadly, reality was far more mundane with Crowley dying in his home at Netherwood, like many “average” men and women. Sadly, he also died penniless without ever managing to get rid of his addictions (including heroin and cocaine).
If it seems like an inglorious end for an influential man, worry not. This didn’t stop him from becoming the emblematic occultist that he is today with a continuing influence on many. For better or for worse, it’s up for each person to decide.
If you’re interested about more information about this controversial figure you can look for the Aleister Crowley biography considered by many to be a must read, namely Richard Kaczynski’s “Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley“.
Or the partial autobiography called “The Confessions of Aleister Crowley : An Autohagiography”.
Just remember to keep things grounded in facts and not the sensational, as is often the case with Crowley.
I mean just type Aleister Crowley Jay Z or Barbara Bush Aleister Crowley in a search engine and you’ll know what I mean.
And just in case you were wondering, a simple “research” will help clarify that the whole Barbara Bush descendant of Crowley theory is actually a well-documented and confirmed April’s Fool prank that started on a blog (Cannonfire).
Do what thou wilt. Heh.