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Who was Aleister Crowley?


Aleister Crowley is an infamous name in occult circles, and there is much in modern occult and new age philosophy and teachings that is laid at his feet. From the tarot deck that Crowley designed, called the Thoth deck, to his writing of the Book of the Law, he made a mark on the history of occult studies. However, it's important that you step behind the mystique of "the Wickedest Man in the World," "the Great Beast," or "666," and see who he actually was and where he came from.
Aleister Crowley was born on October 12, 1875 in Warwickshire, England. His birth name was Edward Alexander Crowley, and he was the son of wealthy parents who brought him into the world of aristocracy as well as a world of strict Christian beliefs. This life of repression, strict rules and religion would be something that Crowley would be fighting the rest of his life, and it was likely his resentment of this very lifestyle that made him take his life in the direction that he did.

Crowley's father died when his son was only 11, and by law this put Crowley in place as the man of the family and the owner of the family fortune. Once he finished primary school Crowley went on to Cambridge, where his interests in mountain climbing and poetry were joined by a curiosity for all things occult. Along with his roommate, Allan Bennett, the two boys began to scour libraries for every scrap of knowledge they could about the occult and about magic in general.

Through the course of these explorations, Crowley found out about an organization known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The golden dawn was famous both for its members, which included prominent members such as William Butlet Yeats and Constance Wilde, and for its ability to put together philosophies and practices as different as alchemy, Kabbalah, numerology, divination, tarot and astrology into a relatively concise set of practices and knowledges. Crowley was accepted and showed great talent for the occult, quickly rising through the ranks of the order. However, the older members of the golden dawn felt that Crowley's arrogance, his sexual deviancy and general lack of regard for any rules other than his own made him unsuited for rising beyond a certain point. This was perhaps the beginning of the end for the golden dawn, and as the rulers fought for power and Crowley wrecked havoc mostly through the force of his personality, the order began to fall apart and Crowley eventually left to travel the world with his wife, whom he discovered was a clairvoyant and a psychic.

It was during the couple's travels in Egypt, a place of great magical significance both then and now, that Crowley claims to have communicated with his personal spiritual guardian known as Aiwass. This being dictated to Crowley for three days, and the manuscript eventually became the Book of the Law, a manuscript which is similar in many ways to the Satanic Bible by Anton Lavey. It was at this point that Crowley's infamy grew while he followed these new creeds, including such phrases as "Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole of The Law." It was the attitude represented by this book that drove Crowley's studies and actions until his death in 1947, a death which left behind a heaping helping of rumor and speculation as to just what Crowley may have discovered, and if any of his magics could be uncovered and used by others who were of a like mind. There are still rumors of magic and spells untold to anyone, such as Crowley's homunculous, which could bring great power to the user, but which have been sabotaged by Crowley who supposedly took all his knowledge to his grave.

"Aleister Crowley, the Great Beast," by Anonymous at Pop Subculture
"Aleister Crowley," by Anonymous at Controverscial