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  What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
General Thelema Posted by Xnoubis on Friday September 15, @08:37AM
from the bio-feedback dept.

I've recently finished Lawrence Sutin's Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, and it is indeed a fine piece of work. Not perfect: it could have been more carefully edited in places, and is a bit more judgemental than necessary. But it's a vast improvement over any Crowley biography I've seen yet.

But it's got me to thinking about Crowley's life, and the lessons it offers us. Different people will derive different conclusions from it, and I'd be interested in hearing what others think on the subject.

For myself, I see two overarching threads: he intentionally set out to demonstrate that one needn't renounce the world in order to have great individual attainment. In this he succeeded.

But I think that there was an unconscious goal as well. He apparently found it quite difficult to empathize with other people. (I'll avoid the use of the word "compassion" because it's controversial; I think "empathy" will serve.) So he set out to demonstrate that one could be effective in public life without empathy. And in this he failed.




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    Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
    by Mordecai Shapiro on Friday September 15, @10:26PM
    >But I think that there was an unconscious goal as well.

    An unconscious goal? That's a somewhat problematic phrase. Specifically in this instance it has me wondering if you mean a personal goal of Crowley's of which he was apparently unconscious, or a goal of his HGA, his "Collective Unconscious" so to speak.

    >So he set out to demonstrate that one could be effective in public life without empathy.

    Unconsciously? or consciously? Doesn't the idea of being "effective in public life without empathy" seem more like your idea than anything that Crowley would ever have formulated, consciously or unconsciously? It might be a valid evaluation on your part, but to attribute it to him seems invalid to me.

    • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
      by Xnoubis on Saturday September 16, @12:05PM
      I could have phrased it more carefully. To try again, I think that Crowley found empathy, or perhaps fellow-feeling, difficult. He set out to rebel from his Christian upbringing, and as fellowship is a Christian value, denied that as well. I think that this served as an excuse for him not to get up to speed on his people skills, since he was underdeveloped in that department anyway. By "unconscious," perhaps I should say "unreflected." Because I somehow doubt that Crowley ever caught himself in this particular ego-game. But it cost him dearly in later life.


      • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
        by Mordecai Shapiro on Saturday September 16, @04:23PM
        >He set out to rebel from his Christian upbringing,
        >and as fellowship is a Christian value, denied that as well.

        That he rebelled against Christianity is undeniable, but does he explicitly deny fellowship? Certainly O.T.O. places great importance upon fellowship, and his documents regarding that order emphasize the positive nature of fellowship. It seems that he acted on occasion without a great deal of overt fellowship, but that he actively disparaged it in his works I seem to have missed.


        • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
          by Xnoubis on Sunday September 17, @01:03PM
          It's not so much a "Thou shalt not care about others," as a denial of the feelings that make real fellowship possible.

          From The Law is For All (New Falcon, 1996):

          "All this talk about 'suffering humanity' is principally drivel based on the error of transferring one's own psychology to one's neighbor . . . The small man has little experience, little capacity for either pain or pleasure. The bourgeois is a clod." p. 36

          "Let the weak and wry productions go back into the melting-pot, as is done with flawed steel castings." p. 102

          "By 'the people' is meant that canting, whining, servile breed of whipped dogs which refuses to admit its deity." p. 115

          "Should we not rather breed humanity for quality by killing off any tainted stock, as we do with other cattle, and exterminating the vermin which infect it?" p. 157

          It's true that there are writings regarding O.T.O. that speak of the importance of fellowship, but Crowley's actions speak more to the passages above, I think.


          • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
            by Mordecai Shapiro on Monday September 18, @12:44AM
            Ah! So you don't really mean fellowship, which is the companionship or comaraderie between "equals", fellows in some enterprise or conviction, but rather "universal brotherhood" or something of the sort. Though even Crowley says, on p. 114 of the book you quote, speaking of the "canting, whining, servile breed of whipped dogs which refuses to admit its deity" that "We are fighting to free them, to make them masters like ourselves." I suppose he might say something like 'true fellowship does not consist in indulging each others' weaknesses'. The Prophet did seem to have difficulties sustaining lifelong intimate relationships, but that is another issue entirely.


            • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
              by Xnoubis on Monday September 18, @12:12PM
              I see that I've allowed myself to get off track. You're right to say that in my previous message, I've only established Crowley's rejection of universal brotherhood. But this isn't my point at all.So I'll try yet again: Crowley reminds me of a child going through a phase where it tries to see how much it can get away with, without any consideration of other people. Most children then either get trained to follow certain rules of consideration, or acquire a sense of consideration once the limits of one-sided manipulation are perceived. Or a mixture of both. But Crowley appears to me to have never really left that phase; to have had an agenda, probably hidden even from himself, to keep at that game and gradually perfect it. My point is that his life demonstrates, to my satisfaction at least, that this game is not perfectable. I think that one of the reasons he kept at it when others would have grown up was that he viewed it as intrinsic to his rejection of Christianity. But this really shields a simple failure of emotional development.


              • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
                by Mordecai Shapiro on Tuesday September 19, @12:01PM
                I'm glad I persisted in trying to clarify. This is finally a fairly clear presentation of what you have apparently been trying to say all along. Had you posted this at the beginning I would have merely pointed out how much it appears to me like one of those one-sided "psychoanalyses" often resorted to by literary critics on authors they'll never meet. They get a personal impression from the author's corpus, generally more a reflection of what issues they have than those the author has, and they propound their point of view, ignoring or downplaying material which doesn't conform to their thesis, and voila! they know the person much better than the person ever knew him or herself. In fact, a "real" psychoanalysis involves hour upon hour of direct observation of and conversation with a patient who actually wants to go through the process. Crowley was as complex as any real human, far more complex than his body of writing (and even that is complex!). To reduce what we have to learn from him to "you can achieve enlightenment without renunciation" and "you'd better play nice with others or you won't have any real friends" seems to me to be something of a disservice to his legacy.


                • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
                  by Xnoubis on Tuesday September 19, @12:24PM
                  Never content to leave well enough alone...

                  The topic I was attempting to address was not "What Has Crowley Taught Us?" but what has his life taught us. And even then, I was attempting to give an overview of how it seemed to me, the central threads, rather than to attempt to elaborate on my observations in detail.

                  Also, I think that it is a legitimate endeavor to draw conclusions from biography, even if one is not a psychoanalyst. One is dealing with representations rather than a real person, certainly, but these representations tell a story that can lend insight into one's own story.

                  And if you wanted to condense my second thread to a sentence, I think it would be more accurate to say, "You'd better play nice with others if you want to influence the public in the way you intend to."


              • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
                by Nexist on Tuesday October 17, @01:08PM
                As his essay in 'The Revival of Magick' entitled "Humanity First" shows, he did not renounce Universal Brotherhood. He held it out as the ideal. Now Crowley did have problems interacting with others, some of this was innate, much also came through the rarification of knowledge. The things one devotes oneself to tend to dominate ones thinking patterns. A Magus has problems relating to the non-magus, just as the physicist has problems talking to the non-scientist.


                • Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
                  by Mordecai Shapiro on Friday October 20, @09:07PM
                  >A Magus has problems relating to the non-magus, just as the physicist has problems
                  >talking to the non-scientist

                  This seems offbase to me. Being an American male of Ashkenazi extraction never made it difficult for me to relate to my Luo sister-in-law. I know a number of highly articulate scientists who have no problem talking to this humanities student. If the Magus' job is to declare the word of the Aeon s/he's doing a terrible job if s/he can't communicate it properly. If s/he intends to revolutionize human affairs s/he'd better be able to relate to human beings.


    Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
    by Aleph on Saturday September 16, @07:59AM
    I have always thought that Crowley made two major magickal mistakes from which we can learn which he freely admitted in Confessions.

    The first was when, after making a severe magical vow to remain at Boleskine until he completed the invocation of his HGA, he went running to help Mathers at the drop of a hat.

    The second (and I don't have a copy of confessions handy so please excuse me if I've flubbed up some of the details) was after traveling across China he was in I think Hong Kong, and worked with a woman from the Golden Dawn to scrye out what he should do next. They invoked Horus or perhaps Aiwass, I believe, and the communication clearly stated that he should go back to Cairo with Rose for further communications. He didn't want to do this, so they tried a second time on a subsequent day - this time the scryer said something to the effect that he should stay with her, they could accomplish great things, etc., etc. He also asked some questions about Augoides and proper method for practicing HGA invocation which he ignored because they did not correspond with his current thoughts on the matter.

    What did he do? Sent Rose packing back home, and headed to America intending to find mountain climbers to go on an expedition with him. He only missed sailing into the San Francisco fire because he missed the boat to SF, and instead ended up in Seattle or Vancouver. I don't believe that he ever found the mountain climbers he went in search of on that journey.

    Aleph
    EGnU.org

    Re: What Has Crowley's Life Taught Us?
    by solidsurfer on Thursday October 12, @12:28PM
    Hmmm...
    How about: don't get addicted to drugs?
    And what about his using his mistresses as mediums and then leaving them high and dry, mad and phucked? Did their consent make up for all that?

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