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  Beast. James Beast.

Scholarship Posted by <Mordecai> on February 23, 2002 @ 11:39 AM
from the on-her-majesty's-satanic-service dept.

Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley
and British Intelligence in America, 1914-1918

by Richard B. Spence
International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence,
13(3):359-371 Fall 2000

Of all of Aleister Crowley's many books the one which I read first was The Confessions of Aleister Crowley (though I did stop to read the entire Book of the Law as soon as I'd read Crowley's description of his reception of it). I greatly enjoyed Crowley's colorful tales and his often ironic style of writing, but I also saw him as someone generally concerned to portray himself in an especially good light. For instance, when Crowley described his pro-German propaganda activities in the U.S. as a disinformation campaign for British intelligence I was more than a little skeptical; I figured he had probably just backed the wrong horse and was now making his excuses.

When I finally years later read some of his essays for the pro-German journal The Fatherland I completely revised my opinion. It's quite evident to me that Crowley's diatribes are brilliantly crafted to make the Germans seem crass and brutal while all the time praising them to the skies. But apparently it's not evident to everyone (after all, it did fool the editor George Sylvester Viereck, a prominent and persistent supporter of German interests in America for both the Kaiser and the Fuehrer), and the accusation that Crowley was a traitor followed him for the rest of his life, and still does today.

Now there's finally a reputable source to cite to back up what is obvious to anyone familiar with Crowley's writing style, that he was indeed engaging in “covert operations” for British intelligence in the WWI-era United States. Richard B. Spence is a professor of Russian and Eastern European history with an interest in espionage and military affairs, and his careful, well-documented article definitely links Crowley's 1914-1918 interlude in America with an organization then known as MI1c, Section V (or the Secret Intelligence Service), and now known simply as MI6. That Professor Spence had to establish this fact through recently available documents in the archives of the U.S. Army's Military Intelligence Division (MID) rather than from the still-classified documents in British archives says something about the ongoing ingratitude of Crowley's country toward his wartime services.

Crowley's most important connection with British intelligence during these years seems to have been Charles Clive Bayley (from October 1915 British general consul in New York). Previously (1913-15) Bayley was the British consul in Moscow, and Crowley had had extensive conversations with him while visiting with a 1913 production of the Ragged Ragtime Girls (as evidenced by several amusing anecdotes which Crowley recalls in Confessions). All of which raises the strong possibility that Crowley was already working with British intelligence before the Great War. The details of Crowley's involvement with the Secret Intelligence Service at this time makes for lively reading (at least for obsessives like me), but in any event, we can now be sure that Crowley was, as he said all along, a patriotic Briton who risked and lost for his homeland, if not his life, then at least his reputation.

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The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them.

**Re: Beast. James Beast.**
by <Nekial> on Friday March 01, @07:38PM

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

Dearest M.,
Thank you for this piece about a little-researched period in Al's life. I have run across, here and there, photo-copies of a letter of thanks to Mr. C. for his service during WWII, and had always accepted it as obviously true (and obviously within AC's character), though with a grain of salt.

Feeling a little vindicated, I suppose,


93 93/93

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