Does the world need another biography of Aleister Crowley? Troy Southgate thinks so, and he’s making waves with a new book about The Great Beast.
It is difficult to imagine a less appealing human being than Aleister Crowley. Okay, there are serial killers, and the usual bogeymen: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Tony Blair!, etc, but of those human beings who have not committed actual murder, surely he must rank as one of the most odious, so why has a man whose concerns include fighting globalisation and opposing Western intervention in the Middle East published a collection of essays about him?
For those who are not au fait with the self-proclaimed Great Beast, Edward Alexander Crowley (1875-1947) was left well provided for by his father, attended Cambridge University, then wrote and published obscene poetry, and a hodgepodge of his own mystical, religious and philosophical nonsense.
In his personal life he was a truly horrible man. Although he didn’t actually kill them, he was morally responsible for the deaths of four men in a mountaineering incident; he also drove his own wife mad, and practised perverted sex with both women and men. One of his acolytes is said to have died after drinking the blood of a sacrificed cat. In 1934, he lost a libel action after his testimony revolted the jury; having squandered both his inheritance and his life, he died in a Hastings boarding house in December 1947, an impecunious heroin addict.
It is for his philosophy though that Crowley is best known, which is often summed up in one trite phrase: Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law.
Ayn Rand espoused a similiar philosophy which is still thriving today; the big difference between Crowley and her though is that Miss Rand added a formidable qualification to Libertarianism, namely do no harm to anyone, do not compel anyone, and expect the same in return. Unlike Crowley, Rand was also an atheist who believed admirably that “Every man is an end in himself”.
Two decades after his death, Crowley was resurrected with the mantra of the Swinging Sixties – which for those like the current writer who are old enough to have lived through them but not old enough to have to have our brains fried by the mind-altering drugs which were de rigueur throughout the decade – was a time of free love, hippies, and doing what though wilt. Crowley’s philosophy gelled with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page and John Lennon, who either hadn’t heard of or decided to give a miss to sacrificing cats, sodomy in the desert, and leaving men to die in avalanches.
In his personal life, Troy Southgate could not be more different from Crowley. Coming from a far from privileged background, he put a youthful misadventure behind him by graduating from the University of Kent with a degree in theology and religious studies, then went on to develop his own political theories, and found the New Right in 2005. His personal life is free of scandal; one of his daughters, Maria, has worked with him on his music projects, which have a folk/spiritual dimension.
So what is the Crowley connection? The book THOUGHTS & PERSPECTIVES, VOLUME TWO: Aleister Crowley is the second in a series; it includes contributions from a number of authors including astrologer Hekate Perseia and Julius Evola (1898-1974). Volume One was devoted to Evola, and the forthcoming Volume 3 to Friedrich Nietzsche. Southgate’s aim is to provoke both controversy and critical thinking. Crowley’s personal life and much of his belief system may revolt many people, but by dismissing him and others like him on account of their personal flaws and mistaken beliefs, we risk throwing out the baby with the bath water. Sir Isaac Newton may have dabbled in alchemy, but that hardly invalidates the laws of motion. And the fact that both Robert Stroud and Phil Spector were convicted of murder does not negate their respective contributions to the study of bird diseases or the creation of modern music.
THOUGHTS & PERSPECTIVES... Aleister Crowley can be ordered from the Black Front Press in softback at a hefty £22 UK, £24 Europe and £25 rest of the world, but if you ask him nicely, Mr Southgate may autograph your copy for you.
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