Well, I’m surfing dangerous waters since I never read much by Crowley (his prose is too turgid for my tastes, although many of the poems are excellent), but I’m going to give my readers an introduction to the most notorious magician that ever walked the planet anyway.
Crowley grew up rich, but after his father died of cancer when Crowley was 11, his life changed direction rapidly. Crowley rejected his Christian upbringing and became fond of drugs and prostitutes and devoted himself to hedonism. He studied alchemy, and took much from Francois Rabelais, including the slogan “do what thou wilt” and the name of his eventual philosophy, “Thelema.” which was based on the hedonism supported by Rabelais, who wrote extensively on the virtues of marijuana, although he had to disguise the plant in code due to the Vatican’s ban on writing or speaking about cannabis.
Crowley’s background in ceremonial magic really starts with his introduction to the Golden Dawn society. Crowley was eventually drummed out of that organization after he found it difficult to get along with its masters. It was inevitable Crowley would get control of his own secret society at some point, although he continued to pick up degrees in as many magical societies as possible. He was a devoted 33rd degree Freemason. The OTO Crowley eventually took over began in Germany and he seems to have been a double agent pretending to support Germany while actually working for MI6. At some point, Crowley crossed the line into fraudulent behavior by claiming magic powers he didn’t have, possibly as an intelligence operation. I suppose this starts soon after he goes to India to study meditation and yoga. After establishing himself as a yoga master, Crowley soon gets married and moves to Egypt, where he makes telepathic contact with the Egyptian god of magic, Thoth. I could take this seriously if Crowley’s career at this point was just recognized as an author of “science fiction,” but I’m afraid he intended his disciples to actually believe he routinely opened doors to other dimensions of time and space. Much of his work concerns the use of intoxicants and sex rituals to manifest mind control mechanisms.
Soon Crowley is claiming all sorts of magical powers, furiously spinning his webs. Meanwhile, among polite society in England, it’s pretty much understood not to leave your kids alone with Crowley, as his conduct knows no moral guidelines. Somerset Maugham would write a novel about him, The Magician, asserting that ritual murder was part of Crowley’s bag of tricks. You see, some sorcerers believe if they kill someone, their soul can be transmuted into psychic energy making the dark magician all that more powerful. In fact, however, Crowley was known as being wicked because he handed out cannabis and cocaine and encouraged their use, and was open about his bisexuality. He also predicted the end of fundamentalist religion and return to paganism. His writings about “child sacrifice” were actually his sly reference to masturbation. Many of the accusations against him have been twisted beyond all recognition.
It seems that the old money super rich have always been fascinated by magic and easily suckered out of their money by a good seance, so it wasn’t long before people inside the oligarchy developed an interest in Crowley. We don’t know when exactly he went to work for British intelligence as a secret agent, but when he came to America, his mission seems to have been to spy on German spies. He seems to have been involved in the plot to sink the Lusitania, which was done to bring the US into England’s war. He also may have been involved in the mysterious defection of Rudolf Hess and several other major intrigues during WWII. He supposedly invented the “V” sign used by Churchill as a magical device against Hitler. His impact on paganism and Wicca is comparable to Albert Pike’s influence on Masonry.
If there’s a Crowley in England today, his name is David Icke, who also claims special magical powers. According to Icke, the royal family is really composed of shape-shifting alien reptiles from another dimension that only Icke is allowed to see. Believe it or not, Icke has a huge fan base and is hard at work trying to capture the center of energy on conspiracy research, despite being such an obvious disinfo agent or quack, take your pick. Claiming special magical powers might get you some prestige inside the oligarchies, but for me, it’s always an indicator of hoodwink in progress. By the end of this life, Crowley had become a bit of a joke inside British intel, and they considered him little more than a pawn to be used in misdirection ops. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was his handler at the end.
Of course, a huge cult has developed around Crowley. They don’t see him as an agent of British intel claiming special powers. They view him as the most enlightened man in the universe? He left a troubled legacy and some of his followers twist his philosophy for evil. So he’s mostly known today as the founder of modern Satanism and a convenient scapegoat. I’m sure Crowley would be happy with this role. In the meantime, if you’re looking for true enlightenment, or just a happy and well-adjusted life, I’d advise not falling too deeply under his control.
But if mind control is your bag, I’m sure you’ll find some very useful information in his many books.