ALEISTER CROWLEY, English occultist and author born (d. 1947) British occultist, writer, philosopher and mystic. He is best known today for his occult writings, especially The Book of The Law, the central sacred text of Thelema an initially fictional philosophy of life first described by Francois Rabelais (16thcentury) in his famous books, Gargantua and Pantagruel. Other interests and accomplishments were wide-ranging — he was a chess player, mountain climber, poet, painter, astrologer, hedonist, drug experimenter, and social critic. Crowley was a highly prolific writer, not only on the topic of Thelema and magick, but on philosophy, politics, and culture. He left behind a countless number of personal letters and daily journal entries. He self-published many of his books, expending the majority of his inheritance to disseminate his views.

Within the subject of occultism Crowley wrote widely, penning commentaries on magick, the Tarot, Yoga, Qabalah, astrology, and numerous other subjects. He also wrote a Thelemic interpolation of the Tao Te Ching, based on earlier English translations since he knew little or no Chinese. Like the Golden Dawn mystics before him, Crowley evidently sought to comprehend the entire human religious and mystical experience in a single philosophy.

Crowley gained wide notoriety during his lifetime, and was infamously dubbed “The Wickedest Man In the World.” There is little wiggle room with Crowley. Either you consider him to be nuts, bonkers, loony, albeit brilliant, fascinating and perhaps a touch of con-man – or you are completely in his thrall. Much depends on how you feel about his central thesis: Do whatever you wish. No wonder he was so popular in the 1960s. Crowley also wrote fiction, including plays and later novels, most of which have not received significant notice outside of occult circles. In his The Book of Lies, the title to chapter 69 is given as “The Way to Succeed – and the Way to Suck Eggs!” a pun, as the chapter concerns the “69” sex position as a mystical act.

Largely despicable, and larger than life, the hashish-smoking, yoga-practicing, occult-preaching, self-described religious prophet probably would do even better today. The man knew how to cause a stir. To say he slept around is to practice understatement that borders on the naive. He was an outspoken racist an anti-Semite and sexist. To give the reader a sense of his contradictory and maddening character, Crowley, according to his biographer, Lawrence Sutin, used racial epithets and brutal verbal attacks to bully his Jewish lover Victor Neuburg. And while he slept with men, women, and virtually anything that moved, his background was distinctly pederastic. His writings reveal this nature with, for example, a poem beginning “I was bumming a boy in the black-out…” Known his whole life for a cutting wit, once, when a woman asked him which American college would be most suitable for her daughter he replied “Radclyffe Hall.”