Aleister Crowley was a British writer who was also famed for his work with the occult and the mystic. Although he was also a mountaineer, poet, painter, astrologist, and philosopher, he is best remembered for his writings with the occult. He was an early and influential member in occult organizations like the Golden Dawn and the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis).
He was born Edward Alexander Crowley in England in 1875. His family was financially comfortable and devoutly religious. At the age of 12, he lost his father to throat cancer. He began to distance himself from his childhood religion, an act which strongly displeased his mother and led to conflict within the home.
In 1895, he attended university. The three years he spent at Cambridge were happy, although it was at this time that he finally broke with religion completely. In December of 1896, his interest in mysticism and the occult increased. He pursued information on the topic.
Crowley had been nicknamed Alick as a child, a name which he detested. He used his mystic readings to determine his new name – Aleister Crowley.
Crowley first studied mysticism while involved with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, later referred to simply as the Golden Dawn. A schism in the organization, combined with a loss of faith in his teacher, led him to seek new paths. Around this time, he traveled to Mexico to continue his studies in private. In 1903, he married Rose.
In 1904, his wife Rose began behaving oddly while on vacation in Egypt. He believed that a spiritual entity had made contact through her. As per her instructions, he invoked the Egyptian God Horus with “great success”. He then founded Thelema, a religious philosophy based on his beliefs.
Over three days, beginning on April 8, 1904, Crowley wrote The Book of the Law, allegedly dictated by Aiwass, the ancient Minister of Horus. However, Crowley was unable to read portions of it, claiming a lack of understanding. He and Rose were divorced in 1909.
For a number of years, Crowley resided in America. Between 1914 and 1918, Crowley worked for British intelligence to gather information and produce propaganda against both the Germans and Irish activists for independence.
In 1920, he established a commune based on his religious philosophies. The inhabitants were permitted to pursue their own pleasures according to their own free will, while attending a school of magic. The fascist government of Mussolini would have none of it, and expelled Crowley in 1923.
His mystic beliefs, combined with his bisexuality, made him a target of the tabloid press. He was shockingly open about sex in an age of Puritanism. Some distrusted him because of his obsession with “black magic”. Nevertheless, the British government continued to use his services in World War II, using him to plant false information for German intelligence.
Aleister Crowley died at the age of 72 from a respiratory infection. His long-standing addiction to heroin had caused problems in the past. His physician, Dr. Thomson, had refused to provide him with any more opiates, forcing Crowley to deal with his addiction. Since Dr. Thomson died within 24 hours of his patient, there were many who believed that the death was caused by a curse, placed by Crowley.
Born 12 October 1875
Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England
Died 1 December 1947 (aged 72)
Aleister Crowley, courtesy Wikipedia.