11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man

Alexa - January 15, 2018

Many of our most revered and respected historical figures were enigmatic philosophers with an array of seemingly unrelated hobbies. Aleister Crowley, however, is the epitome of the enigmatic thinker with dichotomous skill. While not free from controversy, Crowley did inspire mystics, entertainers, and performers to think outside the box and create their own special blend of magic. Crowley fully infiltrated the people’s hearts and minds of the 20th century, planting seeds of conspiracy regarding secret societies and dark magics. Who has not heard at least whispers of the all powerful Illuminati or evil cabal of puppet masters pulling the strings of our most famous politicians? We owe all our most paranoid thoughts to Aleister Crowley.

A lewd and provocative man, Crowley was know for his ritual use of sex magick, prolific hiring of both male and female prostitutes, consuming various bodily fluids, and dubbing his lovers as his “whores of Babylon”; he was a divisive figure that either impassioned those around him with a sense of freedom, or enraged his more conservative contemporaries. Governments deported him while other governments hired him to infiltrate beyond the enemy lines. His poetry, while not critically successful, led to many praising him for his sexuality and obscene and realistic depictions of human sexuality.

Aleister Crowley was born Edward Alexander Crowley on October 12th, 1875 in Warwickshire, England. His family were a wealthy Plymoth Brethern family, however, Crowley rejected the idea of Christianity entirely. Instead, Crowley favored Western Esotericism that inspired his passions throughout his life. Multi-talented, he pursued an array of hobbies and interests throughout his life, including mysticism, poetry, painting, mountain climbing, becoming a novelist, and founding a church. It is no wonder why so many eccentric, popular personalities such as David Leary and The Beatles were so fascinated by him.

Here are the most intriguing, and sometimes frightening, facts about the devilish Aleister Crowley…

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man
The Unicursal Hexagram, an important symbol in the religion of Thelema. Wikipedia.

Crowley Founded A Religion

Developed in the early 1900s by Crowley, the religion of Thelema was based upon Crowley’s own spiritual experiences and obsession with ancient Egyptian culture and religion. In 1904, Crowley and his wife Rose Edith Kelly traveled to Cairo, Egypt. Rose and Aleister believed themselves to be a prince and princess and rented an apartment so they could begin studying and practicing various forms of Eastern mysticism. Crowley’s wife would often become enraptured by meditation to the point of delirium, making outlandish claims that the Egyptian god Horus was in fact watching Crowley closely.

By April of that year, Crowley claimed he was frequently being visited by Horus’s messenger Aiwass. Through these communications, Crowley wrote down everything Aiwass spoke of. This text later became The Book of the Law, or Liber AL vel Legis, the text that Thelema was founded on. The book stated that Crowley was a prophet sent to the earth to bring the populations into a new Aeon. This new Aeon was said to bring about a new moral law to man, and the official Law of Thelema: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will”.

According to Aiwass, Crowley was to steal an important artifact from an Egyptian museum, create his own island, and isolate himself on the island transcribing The Book of the Law into all the languages of the world. Crowley, however, resented the book for many years and even went against what he was supposedly instructed to do. Instead, he sent copies of the manuscript to various mystics and occult leaders who would then disperse its copies to those interested in the ways of Thelema. After the manuscript was passed along to others, Crowley largely ignored the book he had grown to resent.

Thelema itself is based on many practices, including yoga, Eastern and Western mysticism, particularly the Qabalah, and occultism. Thelema is a highly ritualized religion, supporting the use of ritual magicks. Thelema stresses the importance of free will and finding out what your individual purpose on Earth is. Crowley’s founding of Thelema is thought to have started the modern wave of Wicca and occultism that we know today, including Anton LeVey’s LaVeyan Satanism. Although the numbers are not large, this religion does continue to have a steady following of both Thelemites (those who practice Thelema), or those who integrate Thelema into their occultism.

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man
Autographed photo of Aleister Crowley, c. 1912. Wikipedia.

His Use of Sex Magick and Favored Use of Bodily Fluids

When one thinks of magic, perhaps images of wooden magic wands and transfiguration spells come to mind. In real life, however, a witch or wizard cannot actually transform a person into a frog. There are all different kinds of ritual magick that modern day practitioners use, ranging from innocent candle lightings and chants to the more sordid sexual acts ritualized by our ancient ancestors. Aleister Crowley believed in the use of sex magick; sex was such an important thing to Crowley, it directed his every action and relationship, laying the fundamentals of his worship and creation of Thelema.

The premise of sex magick is that it harnesses the intention and powers of those involved, creating a force of energy strong enough to invoke spirits, bring spells to fruition, and transcend to higher planes of existence. Masturbatory, heterosexual, and homosexual sex acts with the goal of orgasm were all perceived as worthy actions enabling the participants with divine power. Sex magick could be performed in a group setting, such as an orgy, or privately with a single partner.

Aleister Crowley also held bodily fluids sacred. When he established Thelema, many of the rituals integral to the religion revolved not only around sexuality, but also the ingestion of bodily fluids from sexual organs. One particular ritual, the Mass of the Phoenix, participants were given wafers to consume. These wafers, called Cakes of Light, were analogous to communion wafers given in the Catholic Church. However, in a possible mockery of the Christian faith, these wafers were not bread symbolizing the flesh of Christ, but rather, the Cakes of Light contained bodily fluids such as semen and menstrual blood. Consuming these bodily fluids was an attempt at transcendence and a means to provide power to the rituals participants.

Crowley was not a monogamous man. Throughout his lifetime, he had multiple affairs and partners. He considered himself bisexual, and even introduced penetrative anal sex as a holy act into his religion of Thelema. It has even been speculated that Crowley’s first sexual experience, a homosexual encounter, is what catapulted him into the world of mysticism. Crowley was brought into a conservative Christian household; Crowley lost his virginity to a man. An open act of defiance to his parents may have been the gateway to his spiritual gravitation.

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man
Aleister Crowley in the traditional robes and headpiece belonging to the Order of the Golden Dawn. Wikipedia.

Crowley Belonged to a Number of Elite Cults

Cults have been around for centuries. They have all gone through many different iterations and have had different ideologies and purposes. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was one cult in particular that grew in popularity among poets, politicians, and educated men. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, more commonly referred to as the Golden Dawn, was an organization that focused on the paranormal, spiritual, and occult practices. The Golden Dawn was a magical order, meaning they practiced magic, that formed in Great Britain. Its original founders were all Freemasons.

Crowley became involved in the Golden Dawn in 1898 after visiting Switzerland and meeting the chemist Julian L. Baker. After being initiated into the Outer Order on November 18, 1898, it was not long before Crowley began causing a stir. Crowley moved into an apartment and invited a senior member, Allan Bennett, from the order to move in with him. Bennett served as a tutor to Crowley, and together they explored ritual magicks involving drugs and ceremonial methods. Crowley progressed quickly through the order and ascending the ranks. Although he was progressing within the group, he was not a popular member. Crowley was not secretive about his bisexuality or his libertine lifestyle. His hedonistic personality and actions caused frictions among even the most popular members, including the famous Irish poet, William Butler Yeats.

It has even been speculated that Crowley’s presence in the Golden Dawn was not of his own accord, but rather under the command of the British secret services to monitor a member who was a known Carlist. It is widely accepted that the group’s strong interest in alchemy, or the protoscientific concept of transfiguration, is what drew Crowley into the organization originally. There is no hard evidence to support that Crowley ever worked for the British secret service.

The Golden Dawn was not the only famous cult Crowley found himself involved in. He also became a prominent member of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), an international secret society founded in the early 20th century. Ordo Templi Orientis was originally created to function in ways similar to European Freemansonry, but once Crowley joined his influence overtook the original concept. Eventually, the O.T.O. would serve as an extension of Thelema, the religion Crowley had founded.

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man
Aleister Crowley while he was attending Cambridge University, 1895-1898. AC2012.

Crowley Started a Commune for His Lovers

It was clear that Crowley did not intend to lead a traditional lifestyle with a single wife and their own children. In April of 1920, Crowley had decided to open a commune in Sicily. The commune was religious, named after the religion he created. The Abbey of Thelema was a sanctuary to all those who believed in Thelema, a sanctuary for his myriad of lovers, and a sanctuary to all of their children.

The commune began as a rented villa. Crowley and his two lovers, Leah Hirsig and Ninette Shumway and their three children were the first members of Crowley’s special commune. It was not long before others longed to join the idealistic community Crowley had set up. Adult members were required to attend mass and wear specially designed robes. Children were largely unattended and left to their own devices as the adults socialized and performed the many rituals required of the religion.

A notable member and his wife are the sources where most knowledge of this curious cult is obtained. Raoul Loveday and his wife, Betty May, became members of the commune not long after its inception. While Raoul thoroughly enjoyed life in the Thelemite commune, his wife Betty was very vocal about her distaste for it. Raoul passed away in 1923, and his wife Betty returned to England shortly after.

Upon Betty’s return, she provided many shocking reports of life at the Abbey of Thelema. According to her, life in the commune was not picturesque or ideal. She recounts blood sacrifices, including one specific instance of a cat being drained of its blood so members could consume the red liquid for a ritual. Other heinous accusations were those of violence against members themselves. Members were cut with razor blades any time the word “I” was used; all individuality was to be stripped away. Once Crowley heard of Betty’s accusations, he vehemently denied them, but Italian officials were already wary of the hedonistic values the commune had brought to Sicily, and deported Crowley and his followers anyway.

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man
V for Victory and the Mark of the Beast, enclosed in the downward-pointing triangle of Ra. AC2012.

Crowley Worked for the Allies During WWI

Crowley’s involvement with the British government sounds both tumultuous and heroic. Given his libertine natures and adverse reactions to rigid protocols and conservative attitudes, he did not rub shoulders well any government, let alone his own. But could such a provocative and divisive figure become a useful tool in our greatest wars? It had already been speculated that Crowley infiltrated secret societies to take down known members who were threats to British national security; could Crowley have the same effect on the Axis powers of the early and mid-1900s?

It is interesting to note that Crowley did tear up his passport, denounce Great Britain, and declare himself an Irishman. His fondness and adulation was no secret to anyone he came across. He called himself an Irishman in his book, The Book of Lies, and created his own Declaration of Independence of the Irish Republic. In a July 21st, 1915 letter to the editor of the New York Times, Crowley wrote: “The true flag of Ireland is a red sunblaze on a green ground. This is symbolical not only of Ireland’s geographical position as the sentinel of the western gate of Europe, but of her traditional history.” Such outward distaste for his country of origin begs the question if he was ever involved with the British government in the first place, yet many reputable sources appear to confirm his direct involvement with the first and second World Wars on behalf of the Allied Powers.

Beginning during the first World War, Crowley had made his way to America. It appeared as though his allegiance with the Irish way of life suited him well; he acted as an Irish spy for the British government. It was the perfect cover. Ardent Irish nationalists were naturally anti-British and pro-German. He distributed what, at first glance, seemed to be German propaganda, however, upon closer inspection, it was obvious he was distributing farcical materials mocking the Germans. Historians have even advocated the fact that Crowley had a direct link to the Lusitania sinking. The United States was largely neutral during the first World War. It was not until the Germans sank the Lusitania that the United States sprang into action. It is speculated that Crowley had direct contact with German forces, encouraging them to sink the Lusitania, insisting this attack would intimidate the United States forces and discourage them from any future attacks. Crowley knew a direct attack would have the opposite effect. Many of Crowley’s biographers have noted several curios trips to Russia, and are in agreement these trips were also covert missions assigned by the British government.

World War II saw its own involvement with Crowley, as well, though in this instance, there was no infiltration but a propagation of the occult in the public sphere. It all originates with “V for Victory”, Winston Churchill’s infamous use of two fingers pointed in the air to indicate a powerful idea of victorious battles over the Nazi regime. Crowley claimed to be the originator of Churchill’s use of the “v” signal. Crowley is said to have passed this idea through the BBC, MI5, and British Naval Intelligence, making it’s way to Churchill himself. The “v” symbol comes from the story of Isis, Apophis, and Osiris. Crowley wrote and illustrated a book titled The Equinox I. In it, the swastika symbolizes the mourning of Isis, and the “v” symbolizes Apophis, the destroyer. The symbolic use of the “v” in this legendary story destroys Osirus, causing Isis (the swastika) to mourn. The “v’ also symbolizes Crowley’s beloved Horus, who is symbolically represented by an upside down “v”.

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man
Aleister Crowley in one of his most famous photographs, dooning a pyramid hat with the Eye of Horus. Vigilant Citizen.

Crowley was Responsible for the Deaths of Several Men

Crowley was multi talented, focusing especially on the arts. He did have a singular proclivity towards rock climbing. Historians have noted that had he not devoted so much of his life to the occult, he would instead be remembered as one of the most talented and successful mountain climbers in history. He began climbing in his early twenties, beginning with local landmarks and eventually finding himself traveling half way across the world for his next challenging adventure. By 1902, Crowley had partnered up with fellow climber Oscar Eckenstein, and the pair were to climb K2, the second highest mountain in the world. This trip was unsuccessful and the pair did not reach the summit. Although unsuccessful, it was still a pleasant trip for Crowley. The same cannot be said for his Himalayan expedition of Kanchenjunga in 1905.

Swiss climber Jules Jacot-Guillarmod asked Crowley to lead the expedition with three other fellow climbers and three Kashmiri porters. Throughout the trip, Crowley continued to butt heads with the other climbers. Crowley claimed them to be wholly inexperienced and even reckless, two attributes that could lead to serious injury and even death. The others disliked Crowley’s dictator like manner, both demanding and overly cautious, causing the group to split from Crowley. This would prove to be a fatal mistake.

Crowley warned the group splitting off that one wrong action could trigger an avalance. The climbers nor the porters listened. Crowley later writes, “I ought to have broken the doctor’s leg with an axe, but I was too young to take such a responsibility. It would have been hard to prove afterwards that I had saved him by so doing”. As Crowley had gravely warned, the climbers did trigger an avalanche. Crowley claimed to have heard their cries, but supposedly did not know they were cries for help. It is obvious that one can hear an avalanche and then deduced that the climbers were in need of dire help. All three porters and one of the European climbers passed away.

Crowley had laid in his tent without offering help to any of the men. Crowley would go on to write, “I was not over-anxious under the circumstances to render help. A mountain ‘accident’ of this sort is one of the things for which I have no sympathy whatever”. He had been right to be very cautious, but his actions were callous and perhaps a good insight into his true character: do not cross him. Since Crowley was the leader of the expedition, he was held responsible for all the deaths the avalanche had caused. After this 1905 expedition, Crowley no longer went mountain climbing, although he was eager to offer his words on mountain climbing throughout the rest of his life.

Obscene and Lewd Poetry, Often About His “Scarlett Women”

Crowley was raised in a very devout Christian household. His family was unique in their faith. They were far more conservative than many other Christians of that era, preferring to adhere to very literal interpretations of the Bible. This particular sect of the Christian faith was almost pathologically anti-pleasure. Crowley did not initially defy his parent’s will, instead it appeared as if Crowley was very devout and especially attached to his father. Crowley would often accompany his father along the countryside as his father gave his own unique sermons to all that would listen. Unfortunately, his father passed away when Crowley was only eleven. This was a huge turning point for Crowley, as it was the beginning of his intense desire to be contrary to all he was taught. Hell bent on blasphemous behaviours, it is around this time Crowley developed his compulsive desire for sex. He developed a hatred for his mother, and his first “blasphemous” act was to have sexual intercourse with the family maid on his mother’s bed.

When Crowley reached his late teens, he was expelled from his school. He had caught gonorrhea from a prostitute, and the school could not tolerate such uncivil behavior from its students. Once Crowley reached Cambridge University, he found the university life to be much more forgiving and far more freeing. It is during this time Crowley developed a love for poetry. Not just any poetry. Crowley would go on to produce some of the most graphic, hedonistic, and lewd poetry ever written. Although university life did allow him to live his libertine lifestyle a little more freely, in reality, the poetry he wrote was so obscene, he would have actually been jailed in England had he published his works in Britain under his real name. Instead, he published his poetry under a different name and in other countries.

His first publication was White Stains, and contained every sexual taboo and vice, ranging from bestiality to necrophilia. The following is an excerpt from a poem in White Stains, “A Ballad of Passive Pedastry”:

“Boys tempt my lips to wanton use,
And show their tongues, and smile awry,
And wonder why I should refuse
To feel their buttocks on the sly,
And kiss their genitals, and cry:
‘Ah! Ganymede, grant me one night!’
This is the one sweet mystery:
A strong man’s love is my delight!”

Many of Crowley’s poems centered around his “Scarlett Women” or “Whore of Babylon”. These were lovers Crowley took that he felt embodied the feminine essence and sexuality of goddesses. One such poem, “Leah Sublime”, is a 666 word dedication his his lover Leah Hersig. Supposedly, Crowley even encouraged Hersig to have sex with a goat, though this attempt was met with failure.

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man
Aleister Crowley on the cover of French weekly magazine Détective, 1929. Pinterest.

Crowley Inspired Well Known Personalities and Supported the Use of Hashish

Today, we are in the middle of a renaissance when it comes to recreational use of certain substances. Advocates of marijuana are not hard to find and its many benefits are proclaimed as a miracle substance for everything from chronic pain to spirtual enlightenment. For decades, we have seen the gradual increase of more liberal feelings towards these substances. Thanks to the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s, the increase of use in marijuana and psychoactive substances pushed its benefits to the forefront, although the counterculture behind its prolific use did nothing to help its legalization.

We can all thank Aleister Crowley for the open and forward thinking forums of discussion we are now able to have regarding the use of legal marijuana. Crowley himself was a heavy user of both hashish and other psychoactive drugs, claiming they increased his ability to communicate with other beings on spiritual planes, increasing his ability to perform more connective and spiritual sexual activities, and believing the substances to be of usefulness in regards to health conditions.

Crowley inspired radical figures such as David Leary, a harvard researcher turned psychonaut in the 60s, and L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of scientology. Both figures turned to Crowley for inspiration and adopted many of his Thelemic concepts to further their own agendas. Crowley believed magic was the middleroad between science and the spiritual realms, an alluring concept for those who had found themselves in professions adhering to strict scientific laws, but longing for answers to questions science had yet to answer. Much like his alchemical predecessors, Crowley and his followers believed that drug use could be the gateway to spiritual fulfillment all while still having scientific explanations for such spiritual journeys.

11 Intriguing Facts About History’s Wicked Man
The Book of Abramelin the Mage, Esoteric Grimoire of Kabbalistic Knowledge. Ancient Origins.

He Attempted to Summon His Guardian Angel

The Book of Abramelin in an esoteric grimoire written in the 14th or 15th centuries. It recounts the story of Abraham the Worm, a German Jew passing on his Kabbalistic knowledge to his son and he acquired this knowledge. Its contents include Abraham’s journey throughout the land to acquire his information in Kabbalistic practices as well as a manual that allows experienced mages to perform a ritual know as the “Abramelic Operation”.

The ritual begins by stating that no one should ever attempt this ritual. The ritual involves a 6 months long process of intense fasting, self torture, and rigorous ceremonial rituals to invoke your guardian angel. If one is successful in such invocation, they may ask their guardian angel to do anything or answer any burning questions they may have. If the ritual fails or is not carried though all the way, demonic spirits infiltrate both the space the ritual is conducted in and the person conducting the ritual. By all accounts, it is considered one of the most dangerous rituals known in magic.

Of course, Aleister Crowley was up to the challenge. In his twenties, he purched a house outside of Loch Ness in Scotland, the Boleskine residence, specifically to perform this ritual. He made his plans no secret to the villagers around him. Many condemned his actions, many were afraid, and most avoided going anywhere near the house. They had a healthy suspicion of the gravity of Crowley’s task and wanted no part of it.

Crowley eventually grew tired of performing the Abramelic Operations. He grew tired of consuming so little food and performing such tedious tasks. He gave up on the ritual and left the Boleskine house on the south-east side of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. Many people believe this opened up the possibility that Crowley became possessed by a demonic presence afterwards, and all actions performed by Crowley after Boleskine were under the directive of the demon itself.

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Aleister Crowley 2012: Top 10 Crowley Myths That are Actually True

Aleister Crowley 2012: V for Victory

Dillsnap Cogitation: Aleister Crowley’s “White Stains” (hidden seminal poetry)

Wikipedia: Aleister Crowley

Wikipedia: Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

YouTube: The Wickedest Man in the World

Wikipedia: Thelema

Wikipedia: Sex Magick

Encyclopedia: Aleister Crowley

Ancient Origins: The Book of Abramelin the Mage, Esoteric Grimoire of Kabbalistic Knowledge