Comments On Aleister Crowley

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    After the recent exchange about The Confessions, I thought that this item might be of some interest. These comments on A.C. were by Eric Stephensen, Inky Stephensen’s younger brother, and were written in 1970 after “The Confessions” were published. They were evidently sparked by a review of it in the Melbourne paper “The Age”, September 12, 1970, a copy of which is attached to the manuscript of the Comments. “P.R.S.” (Percy Reginald Stephensen) and “Perc” refer to Inky. Winifred was Inky’s wife. Valentine Crowley was an electrician who helped form Australia First, an attempt at a nationalist movement in the 1930’s.


    Comments On Aleister Crowley

    by Eric Stephensen. Sept. 1970

    P.R.S. told me that one day while he was at the Mandrake Press, a fellow walked into the office and said to him, “I would like you to publish my life story”. Perc said “Well, where is it?” “I’ve got it outside.” So he walked out, and returned with a small boy pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with manuscripts. Whether this is true or not I cannot say, but this is what Perc told me of the way he met Aleister Crowley.

    It took Perc a long time, and a lot of editing to sort out that pile of manuscripts, edit it and finally produce the first two volumes. Winifred said that the third volume “would not permit itself to be published”. She said, as far as I can remember, that it consisted of prophecies and many other remarkable things, but no matter how they tried, something or other kept cropping up to stop them from publishing it.

    Now this may seem rather far-fetched at this time. But Crowley was a remarkable man, and there can be no doubt that he had quite an “atmosphere” about him. To illustrate the point, I relate a story: the only one I can remember about Crowley.

    Crowley was an artist of sorts, and one day he brought one of his paintings into the office of the Mandrake Press. I can well imagine Perc’s enthusiastic reception of this. At any rate he proudly hung it up in one corner of the room.

    Now it may be remembered that Perc’s partner was a Jew called Goldston. When Goldston walked into the room and saw this painting hanging on the wall, he nearly had a fit. He said to Perc, “for God’s sake take the thing down. If you have it there, something will happen”.

    However, Perc managed to calm him down, and they went home that evening, with the painting still hanging up. Next morning when he opened up the oiffice, Perc discovered that the painting was now face downward on the floor, and the ceiling in the corner of the room had fallen down!

    It is noticed that “The Confessions of Aleister Crowley” is now to be edited by John Symonds. This is not a pseudo-nym for P.R.S., but a different person altogethor. But no doubt Symonds has a pretty high opinion of himself to find a re-editing necessary.

    John Symonds was the man who wrote “The Great Beast”. This was largely a re-hash of “The Confessions” with other facts thrown in. At the time this appeared in Melbourne, I purchased a copy, and after reading it gave it to P.R.S. Perc was pleased to get it, but did not think much of the title. He said that Symonds would not have dared to publish the book whilst Aleister Crowley was alive. The book was in fact published after Crowley’s death, and I have a notion that I have since read elsewhere that Symonds was one of the trustees of the Crowley estate.

    It was an odd thing that later, in Sydney, P.R.S. should get to know another Crowley, two in fact, Valentine and Clarence. Clarence hardly came into it. Valentine was the one. In his “Confessions” Aleister made reference to and wrote in some detail on the mystical quality of the “A” of Aleister. Valentine had the V, an A upside down. One may pause, to wonder, whether Aleister helped to push P.R.S. up, and whether Valentine helped to pull him down.

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    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing that with us…

    It is noticed that “The Confessions of Aleister Crowley” is now to be edited by John Symonds… No doubt Symonds has a pretty high opinion of himself to find a re-editing necessary.



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