Facts about Aleister Crowley reveal a complicated, charismatic man who was not afraid to follow his own path. Born in 1875 to religious parents in England, Aleister Crowley ultimately flouted traditional morals and sought his own philosophical and spiritual beliefs that some people ridiculed and others embraced. He founded his own religion – known as Thelema – and was an important member of Ordo Templi Orientis, one of the most important secret societies.
But Crowley was a man of this world, even if he was preoccupied with mining the secrets of other worlds. During his adult life, he endured two global crises – World Wars I and II – and he may have participated in them in truly unique ways. He was also an outspoken bisexual who touted the importance of sex to a scandalized public.
For better or for worse, it cannot be denied that Aleister Crowley was one of the most astonishingly original, imaginative people in modern history.
He Practiced Sex Magick – And Believed That Consuming Body Fluids Was A Sacrament
As a member of the occult society Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), Crowley also added a new ritual based on anal sex to be practiced by members of the 11th degree.
It is also important to note that Crowley had scores of intense, passionate affairs throughout his life. He considered himself to be bisexual, as he engaged in sexual relationships with both men and women. Crowley’s belief in the power of sex was thus a guiding force in his personal relationships.
He Founded A Religion After Hearing The Voice Of An Egyptian Messenger-God
His Spiritual Awakening May Have Been The Result Of His First Same-Sex Experience
“It was an experience of horror and pain,” he said about his Stockholm encounter, “yet at the same time, it was the key to the purest and holiest spiritual ecstasy that exists.”
He Was Addicted To Heroin And Cocaine
He even fictionalized his own drug struggles in the novel Diary of a Drug Fiend. The novel also articulated Crowley’s belief in the power of Thelema to better a person’s life.
He Was A Member Of Elite Occult Groups
Crowley did not fare well, however – he butted heads with other members (including Yeats) and failed to progress through the stages of membership.
Crowley also joined the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) secret society, in which he became a prominent and active member.
He Founded A Commune With His Lovers And Their Children
The adults wore robes and performed rituals and masses, while the children were left to roam around and play all day without constraint. Additional members joined the commune over the next two years, including Raoul Loveday and his wife, Betty May. Loveday loved the commune life, but hs wife complained of it constantly,
Loveday died in 1923, and his wife returned to her home in England, where she reported on many of the absurd and offensive things that happened there, including drinking the blood of a cat. She also claimed commune members were required to cut themselves with razors every time they said the word “I” as a means of breaking down individuality. Crowley disputed many of her claims, but after the British press reported on the scandalous commune, the Italian government deported Crowley and his fellows.
He Wrote Obscene Poetry
His very dirty, 666-word poem “Leah Sublime” was dedicated to one of his Scarlet Women, Leah Hirsig, whom he also encouraged to have sex with a male goat (though the attempt failed).
A British Earl Hired Crowley To Protect Him From His Own Mother
He Once Faked His Own Death Just To See What Would Happen
He Worked For Allied Interests During World War I
Historians have suggested that he also encouraged the Germans to sink the Lusitania, assuring them it would intimidate the Americans and discourage them for joining the war effort, while in fact knowing that the exact opposite would occur. In addition, he took several trips to Russia that some biographers think were covert missions for the British secret service.
He May Have Been At The Center Of A Plot To Lure A Nazi To Britain
During World War II, Crowley may or may not have been at the center of a British plot to lure Hess to Britain for interrogation. If the rumors are to be believed, Ian Fleming – intelligence officer and writer of the James Bond series – wanted Crowley to help him bring Hess to Britain under the guise of a meeting about the occult. Fleming hoped Crowley would be able to interrogate the Nazi through their discussions about magic.
He Was An Avid Mountain Climber, Though He Was Blamed For The Deaths Of Fellow Climbers
The Swiss climber Jules Jacot-Guillarmod asked Crowley to lead an expedition to climb Kanchenjunga and he reluctantly agreed. The pair were joined by three other European climbers and three Kashmiri porters. Crowley feuded with the other climbers, whom he found inexperienced and reckless. They, in turn, found him dominating and over-cautious. (Modern climbers tend to side with Crowley.)
Eventually, the five split into two groups: three climbers and the three porters decided to retreat, even though Crowley warned them of the risk of an avalanche.
Crowley said later, “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.”
During the descent, the climbers did, in fact, trigger an avalanche, and one of the Europeans and all three porters died. Crowley heard their cries but didn’t leave his tent to investigate until the following morning (he claimed he didn’t know they were cries of peril and not just shouting conversation.) Later, he would 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.”
Though Crowley was in the right, his heartless dismissal of the event offended the climbing community, and as the leader, he was considered to be at least partially at fault.
He Married His Wife To Save Her From An Arranged Marriage, Then Fell In Love With Her
Kelly would become instrumental in his mystical work. The pair had two children, Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith (called “Lillith”) and Lola Zaza. They would remain married until 1909, when they finally separated over the strain caused by Kelly’s alcoholism and Crowley’s infidelity.
He Had To Flee India After Allegedly Murdering A Mugger
He Had A Rotating Cast Of Female Partners He Dubbed His Scarlet Women
He Regularly Slept With Male And Female Prostitutes
He Claimed He Had Been A Pope In A Previous Life
He Referred To Himself As “The Beast”
He May Have Been The Inspiration For A Bond Villain
Fleming wasn’t the only writer to transform Crowley into a character. Christopher Isherwood also used Crowley as a character template in A Visit to Anselm Oaks.
He May Have Influenced Churchill’s Iconic “V” Symbol
He Inspired A Motley Crew Of 20th-Century Personalities
He Taught That Magic Was A Middle Path Between Science And Religion