The yellow press was of great help to Crowley in promoting a superman image. The building up of a devil figure can produce an object of admiration and identification for those who despise the values of those who create it. The devil is a hate object compounded of insecurities. Symonds’ expressed opposition to Crowley is apparently quite fundamental, it seems to be of someone belonging to an opposite camp, like an ideological enemy. The effect, however, is that Symonds with his moralizing is like the straight man of a pair of comedians. Conventional newspaper morality sets off Crowley’s eccentricity very well. Crowley makes us laugh, and this can be built on. It is a form of illumination.
The reality of people like Crowley is that they react as they do by sheer reflex action. In the process of reacting they are creative. For those who are on his side, he is a solace and an encouragement, his superhuman legend more than his reality. All his actions take on a special heroic quality, as if they are messages, as if everything he does is part of a deliberately created work of art. Usually they just spring from the necessity of his position. Moves of desperation seem like acts of great evil and perversity.
Hero worship of Crowley involves the constant assumption of his superior wisdom, as if all of his interests had some profounder significance. Always there is his assumption of esoteric, initiated knowledge, guruhood. There is special value in having instruction from a guru. In the study of secret wisdom one needs to be led through the profoundest paradox, keeping trust unswerving. A guru may be living or dead. Crowley of course is dead. Are not the works of the sages, in Chuang Tsu’s phrase “the lees and the scum of bygone men”? But books these days can preserve more than that. We can even hear his voice, see his portrait.
Rather than that Crowley was dishonest in the way he presented himself, it is more likely that he expected his intelligent readers to be able to read between the lines. The devil image is really far more attractive than the lion. The lion image is less a source of wonder because it is more transparent. As for Crowley’s family life, that is hardly so bizarre as it once seemed, as many of us discover from our own experience. Much of his outrageousness is fairly ordinary if we take a broad perspective, and cease to think only of the respectable middle classes.
There are many possible attitudes towards moral rules. Where a moral code provides a standard by which the success or otherwise of a course of action is to be judged, change the standard and you read an entirely different story. The moral code, or the standard, is entirely a question of interpretation; it does not have to be consciously in the minds of any of the actors in the drama. Thus your actions may very easily have more significance than you understand at the time. At the time, for example, you may feel very insecure about your code of values. You may feel shame and guilt, which is dissipated in retrospect, as you understand that you could not have done otherwise than as you did.
The roots of the creative personality lie in the great mass of disorderly material from childhood onwards. His task is the imposition of order upon disorderly material. Much of this is to be found in the writings of Aleister Crowley. His genius lives on, resisting judgment, through the power of will. Judgment (Geburah on the Tree of Life), until you have won its favor, is a kind of death. A claim to greatness is not an appeal to judgment.
The Crowley discovered at age 14, can continue to have profound value and significance throughout life. His appeal is far more than something merely adolescent.
In presenting oneself as capable now, one must acknowledge that once one was incapable. That is one’s true history, and resulted in a certain amount of abnormality. Only in the light of this admission can the reality become intelligible or admirable. In applying the law of Do What Thou Wilt, it must be understood what phantoms one fought and is still fighting, in what exactly one’s strength should consist. In a general sense, it consists in not submitting to alien judgments and never having done so. Crowley emphasizes some of the vices in his own character, to the point where they make us laugh, and
seem an expression of freedom.
His alleged crimes and weaknesses include letting followers like Norman Mudd and Leah Hirsig starve. But I am not my brother’s keeper. Why should he have accepted the responsibility of supporting them as if they were his family? They were not his children. He had to consider his own survival first, and that was at times difficult. He is accused of self-indulgence. He was not able to support, materially, all the various weaklings who crossed his path. Did he ever imply, misleadingly, that he could? Unlike Bhagwan, or the Scientologists, his organization offered no security to its members. Unfortunately, the law of Do What Thou Wilt did not work well for some people. Too many came to bad ends, seeming damnation. Crowley appeared to be preaching a philosophy of dangerous bohemianism. Why did his personality appear to drive women mad? He never went to prison, though he came close to it once. He has been reproached for his behavior on the mountain, for an incompletely cut ice step, and for not going out to search for the missing people. Was that funk? He may have been guilty of trying to justify himself after the event, of self-justification in the face of crimes and weakness.
Crowley the Beast made a morality out of immorality. It is shocking that madness and suicide should so follow in his wake. It shows how far he was from being the King Lamus figure he sometimes projected. But this shockingness also seems to express some teaching, perhaps a mystical message worth meditating upon. Crowley lived out his Beast role. As to the Beast, one is not called to an Imitatio Crowleyi. Not having that historical role to play, one does not have to be utterly callous and selfish to all one’s friends and lovers. One can be inspired by it, without feeling any need to imitate it.
Youthful fascination for Crowley is an essentially statistical phenomenon. A proportion of young people who read The Great Beast would feel a close identification with him. Because they feel as they do they also feel a sense of superiority, of being in possession of some superior insight. Not that, at their age, their insight could be any greater than the man chosen by Crowley himself to be his biographer. The Crowley discovered at age 14, can continue to have profound value and significance throughout life. His appeal is far more than something merely adolescent. Crowley was a deliverer from Weltschmerz; he represented affirmation in a strong form. In the war against
laldabaoth, as in all wars, sometimes extreme measures are necessary. Oppression by the zeitgeist continues, whether we feel it as Christianity, capitalism, socialism, materialism, democracy, or whatever. It is all too easy to pick on one of these, identifying most strongly with its enemies, fervently denouncing it as the heart and essence of an evil that really runs much deeper.
1 Sanine: eponymous hero of a novel by Arstibashyev, a Russian portrayal of a Nietzschean superman from a largely sexual angle.
Between the years 1582 and 1589 the Elizabethan scholar John Dee (1527- 1608) conducted a series of ritual communications with a set of discarnate entities who eventually came to be known as the Enochian angels. It was Dee’s plan to use the complex system of magic communicated by the angels to advance the expansionist policies of his sovereign, Elizabeth the First. At the time England lay under the looming shadow of invasion from Spain. Dee hoped to control the hostile potentates of Europe by commanding the tutelary spirits of their various nations.
Dee was a thoroughly remarkable man. Not only was he a skilled mathematician, astronomer and cartographer, he was also the private astrologer, counselor and (some believe) confidential espionage agent of Queen Elizabeth.1 His father had been a gentleman sewer (a kind of steward) at the table of Henry VIII. When Elizabeth ascended to the throne, Dee was asked by Robert Dudley to set an auspicious date for her coronation ceremony. Always intensely loyal to Elizabeth, he had earlier been accused, (falsely) of trying to kill her predecessor, Bloody Queen Mary, with sorcery. His intellectual brilliance and skill as a magician were famous, and infamous, throughout Europe.
In his occult work he was aided by an equally extraordinary person, Edward Kelley (1555-1597), the son of a Worcester apothecary, who dreamed of discovering the secret of the philosopher’s stone and dabbled in the black art of necromancy. Fleeing Lancaster in 1580 on charges of forging title deeds, Kelley found it prudent to set out on a walking tour of Wales. Somewhere near Glastonbury (so the story goes) he purchased a portion of the fabled red power that could turn base metals into gold from an innkeeper who had received it from tomb robbers.2
Dr. John Dee
All the remainder of his colorful life Kelley labored to unlock the secret of the red powder so that he could manufacture more of it himself. It was on this quest for alchemical knowledge that he sought out the library of John Dee in 1582, and it was primarily for this reason that he agreed to serve as Dee’s seer
—he hoped Dee would help him to discover the secret of the powder.
Dee was a saint, Kelley a rogue.
Dee was a saint, Kelley a rogue, but they were bound together by their common fascination for ceremonial magic and the wonders it promised. Dee possessed little talent for mediumship. He tried to overcome this limitation by
hiring a mountebank named Barnabas Saul as his professional scryer but had poor results. When he learned of Kelley’s considerable psychic abilities, he eagerly employed Kelley as his seer for the sum of 50 pounds per annum.
The spirits got their name from the nature of the system of magic they described to Dee. It was, they claimed, the very magic that Enoch the patriarch had learned from the angels of heaven.
Dee invoked the Enochian angels to appearance within a scrying crystal or a black mirror of obsidian by means of prayers and certain magical seals. After Kelley alerted Dee to the presence of the spirits, Dee questioned them. Kelley reported their sayings and doings back to Dee, who recorded their words and actions in his magical diaries.
The most important portion of Dee’s transcription of the Enochian communications, covering the years 1582-1587, was published in London in 1659 by Meric Casaubon under the title A True and Faithful Relation of What passed for many Yeers Between Dr. John Dee … and Some Spirits. This fascinating work has been reprinted several times in recent decades and is readily available.
The spirits got their name from the nature of the system of magic they described to Dee. It was, they claimed, the very magic that Enoch the patriarch had learned from the angels of heaven. The angel Ave tells Dee: “Now hath it pleased God to deliver this Doctrine again out of darknesse: and to fulfill his promise with thee, for the books of Enoch.”3 Compared to it, the angels asserted to Kelley, all other forms of magic were mere playthings.
Although Dee faithfully recorded all the details of Enochian magic in his diaries, he never tried to work this system in any serious way. We cannot know the reason with certainty. His rupture in 1589 from Kelley, who stayed on in Bohemia to manufacture gold for the Emperor Rudolph the Second while Dee returned to England at the request of Elizabeth, may have inconvenienced his plans. However, it is my contention, as I shall demonstrate below, that Dee was awaiting permission from the angels to employ their magic, and this permission was not given in his lifetime.
It is necessary to state here unequivocally for those unfamiliar with Enochian magic that neither Dee nor Kelley fabricated the spirit communications. Both believed completely in the reality of the angels, although they differed about the motives of these beings. Dee believed the angels obedient agents of God submissive to the authority of Christ. Kelley mistrusted them and suspected them of deliberate deception. The dislike was mutual. The angels always treated Kelley with amused contempt. Kelley hoped the angels would communicate the secret of the red powder, which is the only reason he endured their insults for so many years.
There is no space here to enter into the entire question of the nature and objective reality of spirits, nor is it likely that any conclusions could be reached on this difficult subject.
Dee believed the angels obedient agents of God submissive to the authority of Christ. Kelley mistrusted them and suspected them of deliberate deception. The dislike was mutual.
Woodcut from Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, 1636 edition
Whatever their essential nature, the Enochian angels acted as independent, intelligent beings with their own distinct personalities and purposes. This is how Dee and Kelley regarded them, and this is how I shall regard them in
this essay, because I am presenting here the secret agenda of the angels, which they concealed from John Dee—to plant among mankind the ritual working that would initiate the period of violent transformation between the present aeon and the next, commonly known as the Apocalypse.
What the Enochian angels conveyed to Dee through Kelley was not merely a more potent form of spirit magic to rule the tutelary daemons of the nations of the earth. It was an initiatory formula designed to open the locked gates of the four great Watchtowers that stand guard against chaos at the extremities of our universe. The Watchtowers are described by the angel Ave:
“The 4 houses, are the 4 Angels of the Earth, which are the 4 Overseers, and Watch-towers, that the eternal God in his providence hath placed, against the usurping blasphemy, misuse, and stealth of the wicked and great enemy, the Devil. To the intent that being put out to the Earth, his envious will might be bridled, the determinations of God fulfilled, and his creatures kept and preserved, within the compasse and measure of order.”4
These Watchtowers, represented in Enochian magic by alphabetical squares, are equivalent to the four mystical pillars of Egyptian mythology that hold up the sky and keep it from crashing into the earth. They bar the chaotic legions of Choronzon from sweeping across the face of the world. Choronzon, the Enochian angels reveal to Dee, is the true heavenly name for Satan.5 He is also known by the Enochian title of Death-Dragon or Him-That-Is-Fallen (Telocvovim).6