Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a prominent English occultist, writer, and ceremonial magician with a reputation for controversy and provocativeness.
Edward Alexander Crowley was born to an affluent family in Royal Leamington Spa, England, on October 12, 1875. It is likely that his parents’ membership in the Plymouth Brethren, a strict evangelical Christian sect, inspired his lifelong interest in religion and spirituality.
After attending Cambridge University, where he developed an interest in occultism, he joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a society devoted to the study and practice of occultism, metaphysics, and paranormal activities. The order included influential figures, including W.B. Yeats, among its membership.
Crowley ultimately departed the Golden Dawn and traveled to Mexico, India, and Paris, where he studied and practiced various forms of yoga and magical rituals. In 1904, while in Cairo, Egypt, Crowley claimed to have been contacted by a supernatural entity named Aiwass, who purportedly dictated the text known as “The Book of the Law” to him. This document served as the basis for Crowley’s new religion, Thelema.
The fundamental principle of Thelema is encapsulated in its dictum, “Do what thou wilt shall be the entire Law. “Love is the law, love by choice” This was frequently misconstrued as a justification for hedonism and moral relativism, but Crowley maintained that “Do what thou wilt” did not mean “Do as you please.”
In 1912, Crowley became a leader in the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O. ), a German occult society with ties to Freemasonry. In 1907, he established the AA, a spiritual organization intended to succeed the Golden Dawn, and in 1907, he founded the AA. Crowley’s concentration on the practice of sexual magick within the O.T.O. contributed to his controversial reputation.
The lifestyle and personal philosophy of Crowley inspired both admiration and contempt. Due to his bisexuality, drug experimentation, and preoccupation with the occult, the media dubbed him “The Wickedest Man in the World.”
Crowley was a prolific author, having penned numerous novels, poems, and essays on magic, mysticism, and his personal spiritual experiences. His works have had a significant impact on contemporary occultism, and references to him can be found in a variety of cultural media.
He passed away on 1 December 1947 in Hastings, England. Despite his passing, his influence lingers on, especially in occult circles, and he remains a divisive figure in popular culture.
It should be noted that this is a summary, and that many facets of Crowley’s life and work are intricate, nuanced, and open to varying interpretations.