Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Aleister Crowley Day!

As Christopher Columbus is generally determined to be a genocidal colonialist prat, I've reserved October 12 to commemorate the birthday of Aleister Crowley, who was a poet and Satanist who probably wasn't as much of a genocidal colonialist prat but is no less absurd a person to ascribe a day to, being a European who stumbled onto various territories of spiritual space already previously discovered by other people, who then went on to profit from them, except he didn't, because he spent the money on heroin, because no magician is perfect, am I right? But his face got on the Sgt. Pepper album of the Beatles, and the Scientology of Hubbard and the witchcraft of Gardner would probably alike be poorer if not nonexistent without his enquiry.

Which isn't to call him a prophet or anything. Only he "Columbused" so many pagan/syncretic faiths and practices that you can't hardly have an alternative pagan faitheism without at least a shout out to the guy who yoinked out so much esoterica that any regular Joe or Josephine could be a lifetime trying to figure out what he was about.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love, and do what thou wilt. (Yeah--he basically tried to bogart the Golden Rule like he owned it. Basic.)

So I am going to go eat a small child and probably have some still wines unto the Beast, or something like that. You also, go have yourself a good time. He would have wanted it that way, I think. Bloody hard to tell.

3 comments:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Happy happy! I've enjoyed reading all sorts of novels, crappy and not-quite-so, inspired by Crowley.
~

Formerly Amherst said...

As you've probably noticed, Vixen, I am not a Thelemite. My own involvement is derivative of the Dion Fortune line. As it happens, I am in agreement with your assessment of Crowley, I often point him out as an example of behavior one should avoid. I have know many Thelemites (Bob was very big on Crowley), but I must say that most of the really serious magical work I have seen was associated with organizations not involved with the 93rd Current.

One interesting point is that at the same general time in history in Great Britain, the Theosophical Society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Society for Psychical Research were all started. That's quite a lot of activity to spring up more or less in the same time and place. And all three of these endeavors were groundbreaking and enjoyed a considerable amount of accomplishment and virtue. All three still exist today, though in modified form.

In the magical world a lot has changed. A huge amount of research and discovery has occurred in the fields of depth psychology, comparative mythology, archaeology, and theology. Carl Jung changed the way in which the university mind has an opportunity to view esoteric material. The magical world has gone in two different directions since Crowley's time: One a really serious, hard-working, sophisticated direction rarely given to public revelation. And another that still attracts people by virtue of sensationalism and of a post-psychedelic drug nostalgia for people who look for fantastic experiences to brighten their otherwise dull lives.

The Society for Psychical Research has virtually done over a hundred years of solid research into the survival question, some of it being so persuasive that it is hard to dismiss. It has been the progenitor for parapsychology, near-death studies, out of body studies, and studies on dream telepathy and other areas for consideration.

A good scientific book written 60 years ago is The Imprisoned Splendour by Raynor C. Johnson, a physicist who divided his time between running his physics department in Australia and psychic research.

The Theosophical Society, despite some fraudulent claims, really opened the door to serious oriental and far eastern studies.

We have come a long way since these 3 organizations were founded in 19th century Britain, but all of them offered something new in respect to explorations into divinity, the nature of man, and the esoteric perspectives.

Vixen Strangely said...

"We place no reliance on virgin or pigeon: our method is science, our aim is religion."
--Aleister Crowley

In his fashion, he was kind of an anthropologist of the working spiritual world. What strikes me as singular about this juncture in history is that the concept of methodology had finally been developed to the extent that, say, medicine, was more strictly about observation and working to understand how cures worked rather than accepting things that seemed to work. The world had become smaller as steamships and dirigibles and aeroplanes closed the distances between cultures. The body of understanding regarding many phenomena was being recognized. The shrinking of the distances between various peoples closed the space for myth and mythinformation.

'Thunder mentions that fictional works allude to Aleister Crowley--I've noticed that this particular Late Victorian-to maybe 1940's era is popular for speculative fiction writers because of the Crowley/Sherlock Holmes/ Lovecraft axis. The 20th century is, in many ways, defined by the profound movement of people out of their comfort-zones. They are immigrant. They are alienated by the emerging industrial culture. They are influenced by a sense of the need for a profound movement to define themselves. They lose religion, or find stronger, wilder spirituality. They glimpse that history is longer and their world older and space deeper and the universe broader, then they ever knew. The idea of personality analysis from alienists like Freud and Jung awake regular people to the kind of struggles of self-knowledge that once was the arena of struggle of the adeptus.

I think the uniting theme is process, progress, science. Things we thought we might never pin down are in our grasp--scientists have done runs at things like tummo and determined that Tibetan adepts really can turn up their internal thermostats by thinking on it--it's a thing that was mythy--until it got quantified, not that the lab-coat boyos know how it happened yet. In many ways, our full range of sensory perception as human animals are sort of atrophied, like our sense of smell, which we don't hardly use except to know whether the milk is off.

We like heroes who figure things out. Sherlock. Einstein. We like the idea that there is a sense we are dismissing, whether we try to build it back up or not. The flexing of science might diminish "faith", but only to the extent that it makes "phenomena not proved" into "stuff we totally understand".

I love how we know have this age of discovery. The fantastical becomes less so when we start to grasp its process, and when it moves from "we believed" to "we know". And I like the idea that the fantastic can become every day.

The Victorian adeptus was a classically-trained white male of certain means who had access to arcana usually in languages working class folk never learned, who got to see a little farther. Crowley traveled the world and tried to make this gift of multiple perspectives cohere.

I like the idea that the viewpoint of the Tibetan adept or the African adept, or the Indian yogi or whatever, is something I can be aware of or learn from in determining my own path. Political correctness calls this sort of thing "cultural appropriation" but I think of trying to get another culture to see how they did stuff as just learning. Most magick paths seem to be N=1 anyway. There is still a little less room for viewing oneself as something other than a Scarlet Woman on the Crowley path as a female--yep, not a Thelemite here, either. I view seeking on the general path as being mostly about self-discovery and trying to improve my relationship to the realness.

Crowley did a good thing, I think, in sort of democratizing and generalizing esoterica. It never needed to be so...esoteric as it was. He let a lot of people see clues they would have been shut out of before. And he dropped the hell out of Victorian sexual mores.