To be honest, if there was any way of avoiding Aleister Crowley in this roughly chronological list – say, in favour of at least one female magician like Dion Fortune or Rosaleen Norton – then I would have gladly taken it, given both the enormous attention that Crowley has received already and the fact that much of this is from sensitively reared thrill-seekers who are attracted to Crowley’s reputation as the world’s wickedest pantomime character.
But there isn’t really a way that Crowley can be ignored. His practical experience of magic is obviously vast, and his explanation of it is usually as accessible and as lucid as anyone could conceivably manage.
Although it follows on from the work of Éliphas Levi and the magicians of the Golden Dawn, Crowley’s greatest accomplishment is his beautiful and elegant synthesis of a wealth of pre-existing magic systems and magical ideas into one coherent philosophy and methodology.
Some of his books – Magick in Theory and Practice, Liber 777, The Book of Thoth, The Vision and the Voice – are essential for an understanding of the magic landscape, and the Thoth tarot deck he created with Lady Frieda Harris is, to my mind, still unsurpassed.
Too bad he had to discourage all of the proper scrutiny his important work deserves with his publicity-stunt Satanic posturing, but it’s undeniable that he provides magic with lot of its entertainment value, for better or worse.
The complete list of Alan Moore’s favourites comprises:
1: Alexander of Abonoteichus (c. 105-c. 170)
2: Dr. John Dee (1527-1609)
3: William Blake (1757-1827)
4: Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)
5: Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956)