Thelema Revisited

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There can be few minor poets that have been the subject of as many biographies as Aleister Crowley: accolades and denunciations, works of scholarly research and feeble cut-and-paste treatments. But once in a rare while comes along something new, something that catches the eye and engages the brain. Richard T Cole’s “Thelema Revisited” is just what I’ve been looking for. It’s a warm and affectionate account of a love affair between the author and a ruined farmhouse, an affair that reached its peak in June 2007 when the author spent a night in the building and, in so doing, reconnected with the spirit of the much maligned Magus. A handsome hardback book of one hundred pages or so, the author, Richard T Cole, has assembled a remarkable collection of images, all put together with a designer’s eye for apleasing layout. It’s printed on good quality paper and all the images – ranging from old black and white photographs, through plans and diagrams, to modern video captures – are crystal clear and sharp, albeit on occasions rather too small, despite the A4 format. The book starts with an account of the author’s visit to Cefalu in June 2007. The tension is almost palpable as he describes setting up base in a village near the famous La Rocca and the topography of this part of Sicily is expertly described with the aid of tourist maps, old photographs and Google Maps captures. Of particular interest are the photographs of life in Cefalu from 1922. Members of LAShTAL.COM are likely to have read Frater FS’s account of a visit to Cefalu and therefore to understand how difficult it is to locate the Abbey: Mr Cole’s guide should make the task so much easier. Upon his arrival we are treated to literally dozen of photographs, all brilliantly cross-referenced to the site itself by way of some very useful diagrams. To give some idea of the level of detail presented, the “Cognac, Cunt and Cocaine” mural is afforded a page of photographs all to itself showing in the space of 11 photographs the deterioration of the images from the 1950s (when the author first visited), 1996, 2004, 2005 and 2007. Kenneth Anger’s visit to the Abbey is discussed at length, including the work by the owner to have the building divided into two apparently just in order to extract double the rent! I recommend this book without reservation: the Abbey, its history, significance and influence are described in words of eloquence and insight, and are illustrated by a huge number of extraordinary images that chart the mystery and decay of the ill-fated Thelemic commune. Essential reading for all serious students of the extraordinary life of Aleister Crowley.

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