EDIT: You can find the sequel to this analysis here: Crowley Part 2
A name in the occult world that is synonymous with controversy, depraved sexuality, magick and evil. But is it fair to place just one simple man down as the wickedest man in the world? Does he even deserve such a moniker?
Just over a year ago I was with Matt Cook in an unassuming used bookstore in Victoria, Canada and I came across a red bound book with a gold embossed title. Upon discovering it, Matt insisted I should have it, and so he purchased it immediately without hesitation. It was a hefty purchase for a book in my opinion, but in hindsight, I feel it was well worth it. I know you’re likely already aware of whom the book is about, and yes it is about our infamous occultist, Aleister Crowley. The book in question is a 1972 reproduction of Aleister’s journal entries from 1914-1920, simply titled “The Magic Record Of The Beast 666 – Journals Of Aleister Crowley”.
The book has an Introduction by John Seymonds and Kenneth Grant, the authors and editors of the book, which gives the reader some background to Crowley that lead up to the time frame of the journals. Then it is divided up into three sections:
-Rex de Arte Regi, The King Of The Royal Art
-The Magical Record of the Beast,
-Liber Al vel Legis, (The Book of the Law)
Before we go further into the journals let’s first lay out the main principles of Thelema, the religious philosophy created by Crowley. Anyone familiar with Crowley’s occult practices will have heard the phrase “Do what they wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Commonly perceived as doing whatever you wish, and no doubt Crowley did do many things as he wished. However, the above phrase is actually incomplete, in full says “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will”. Will referred to “true will” and the true will is not about attaining things at your own whim. Instead, it refers to a higher calling or a higher purpose that you are destined to complete. Thelema suggests to the individual that they have the intrinsic right to adhere to their higher purpose in life. This is the most basic understanding of the concept and true will is explored in much further detail in Crowley’s writings and on www.thelemicunion.com.
As a magician, daily journaling of his experiences, thoughts on rituals, his pursual of “The Scarlet Woman”, general ailments, magical results and even the weather report are a necessity. For Crowley, they are an intricate part of his learning and hence our learning of magic. Most individuals who practice in the occult have a record of their practices, a way of keeping tabs on what works and what doesn’t. In the first act of the book, Rex de Arte Regi, we see a more simplistic, yet specific cataloging of events.
The journals start with Crowley aged 39 living in America pursuing a respectable married woman, Marrie Maddingley. It is important to know that at this time Crowley has suddenly come upon hard times and the riches of inheritance were slowly dwindling away. In September of 1914 he describes Maddingly as an “object” and relayed:
Sex-force and sex-attraction’ in order to facilitate the practice of the IX* for these experiments. The girl was very weak feminine, easily excitable and very keen. It being the first time she had committed adultery. [Operation] highly orgiastic, and Elixir of first-rate quality.
Pursuing sexual intercourse as a form of magic continues throughout the journal. Crowley attains ritualistic sex magic for all matter of reasons. Whether he wanted financial funds, an abundance of health, a cure for an ailment or a resurgence of spiritual energy. Sex magic is seen as the antidote to the problems in the world and a way to transcend what it means to be human. Crowley was also concerned with more than just casual conquests for magical outcomes, for another theme that repeats itself in all of Crowley’s writings, and certainly in the first part of the journal is the need for “The Scarlet Woman.”
I’m going to interrupt the journal narrative here and reveal the role of The Scarlet Woman because it becomes an important element in the religion of Thelema. The Scarlet Woman is the sacred whore represented by the figure of Babalon, whose etymology comes from Babylon. The Scarlet Woman is a representation of “The Great Mother” and her consort is always “The Beast”, who represents chaos. It is important to see that Crowley saw himself as identified with the beast, hence his moniker, The Beast 666 (also his nickname as a child). The Scarlet Woman is marked by 7’s for that matter and a true Thelemite will always greet you with 93**, which is code for, you got it, Do what they wilt shall be the whole of the law.
Crowley had always intended to go beyond concepts of “Good and Bad” and with Thelema, he would define each human being as his/her own definite object in life, with his/her own path, without the sense of wrong or right attached to it. Since Crowley saw The Scarlet Woman as essential to his magical process, I decided to ask a professional about the relationship of The Beast in comparison to The Scarlet Woman. So I contacted a representative from the Thelemic Union to sort this out:
Me: I was going to ask just specifics about your opinion on the importance of The Scarlet Woman to the figure of The Beast. More specifically what is their relationship to each other.
Thelemic Union: Good question. Crowley viewed them as somewhat complementary opposites. He also viewed the Scarlet Woman as having “all power given”. Sexually, this refers to the SW being the active or controlling/directing force, as in “Babalon astride the Beast”
Crowley also thought a kind of Semiramis-like female/Scarlet woman figure would become the world figure of Thelema
In that record, Beast + Scarlet Woman = God-Devil/Aiwass, the two-in-one that represents samadhi***
At times in the journal, Crowley is on his own and he is doing rituals and using himself as the female in the ritual equation:
Jan 11:33 pm, Weather warm and cloudy. Pitch Dark in temple. Epunz per adum manibux****
Object: Energy. (Being in despair, and the inertia born of it, I need moral and mental discipline badly.)
The Operation was most extraordinary. I figured the god well on the single drop of semen. Erection then failed. I wanted to go on, but the God spake and said: “Thou has thy will. Depart; write down the record, and make a particularly careful study of the stars. I obey.”
The result of his failed attempt at being the Scarlet Woman in this equation is that he was bored and weary all evening, though he would have robust energy the following days and be full of ideas and energetic dancing (page 15). We know in fact that Crowley had a list of woman he considered to be true Scarlet Women, whom he worked with over long periods of time:
-Rose Edith Crowley
-Mary D’Este Sturges
-Jeanne Robert Foster
-Bertha Almira Prykrye
There is likely a list of more women who served this position in reference to Crowley’s Great Beast, and certainly in the journal he comes across many women whom he has sexual interactions with that are only brief encounters. In fact, a brief entry on April 28th details a disturbing concept of women, that perhaps is more a product of the time than it is of how Thelema today sees the female role.
28 April, If God made man a little lower than the angels he made woman a lot lower than the animals. For some reason, I slept practically all day, though I had had a good nights rest.
In order to get out of my own thoughts on Crowley I decided to ask a long time practicing witch (old world witchcraft) what elements she thought Crowley was looking for with his ideal Scarlet Woman and her response was:
“I think the Scarlet Woman for Crowley was his “ideal”; kind of a Lilith figure. He went through women like water, but I don’t think he ever truly found anyone to live up to what he expected of this dark icon. He practiced all sorts of sex magic and used it to try to achieve Divine Knowledge. I don’t think he ever achieved it with a partner. He managed to drive a few of them insane in his pursuits.”
Currently, Thelema describes the relation of The Scarlet Woman to that of the Beast as a figure that is opposite, yet an equal force. However, Crowley’s seems to behave in a way that shows him approaching all women in a manner to be used for magical results. Seemingly we see him using women whom he sees as having a weaker nature. If he does see them as strong, it appears his severe approach eventually wears them down as well. The hallmark of power or an extreme narcissist?
The Scarlet Woman is supposed to be Crowley’s equal, however, it seems that he has created an extreme ideal that very few real women (or men) could ever be. In the second part of this blog next week we will leave the concept of The Scarlet Woman and his time in America. When we pick up in part two we will see Crowley back in England and the tone of the last year of this journal changes as he pursues an even darker path.
28th July about 2.00 pm
Operation: per os dominae (by the mouth of the lady)
16 August, 9:35 pm
Regis in manu (In the King’s hand)
Object: To have an Egyptian Belly
*Refers to the 9th degree of magic, which is heterosexual sex magic and the mixing of semen and vaginal fluid.
**93 is the numerical value of Thelema (the Greek word for Will). People who follow Thelemic Paths base much of their information on the works of Aleister Crowley. Crowley believed he had received messages that he was a new messiah, and was to create a new religion called Thelema.
93 is also the numerical equivalent for the Greek word Agape, meaning love.
***a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation. In Hindu yoga, this is regarded as the final stage, at which union with the divine is reached (before or after death).
****The god, Hermes, and Crowley conjoined, i.e. Crowley is visualizing the god, while he, Crowley, is masturbating. Furthermore, the god is using Crowley as a woman.
Further Readings & Resources: