Aleister Crowley and 'magical fascism'
Aleister Crowley's detractors sometimes try to criticise his legacy as being allegedly 'fascist', 'racist', 'anti-Semitic', etc. While it is true that he wrote of his initial sympathy for the fascist revolution in Italy in his autobiography 'Confessions', he later became disillusioned with Mussolini's compromises with the Roman Catholic Church (even though Il Duce admired Nietszche).
Major-General J.F.C. Fuller joined Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in 1934, but had left Crowley's magickal order the Argenteum Astrum in 1911, although he continued to be interested in and to write about the occult.
Martha Kuntzel was a member of Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis and the Nazi Party, who sent Hitler a copy of 'The Book of the Law' with her commentary. She became disillusioned with the Fuhrer after he banned certain masonic and magickal orders such as the OTO and AA (even though the NSDAP was funded in the 1920's by the occult Thule Society).
Master Therion's seemingly 'politically incorrect' documented statements on race should be understood in the context of the climate of those times and attitudes of his era, and his seeking to strengthen the characters and psyches of those he aimed racial epithets towards, such as Victor Neuburg for example.
What do you think?
www.counter-currents.com/2010/09/aleist ... st-part-1/
www.counter-currents.com/2010/09/aleist ... st-part-2/
What do you think?
I think you are being an apologist. Crowley's racial and/or anti-Semitic epithets only strengthened the characters and psyches of his victims by strenghtening their abdominal muscles from the low blows Crowley constantly gave them. Racism and bigotry don't make the victims of their intolerance stronger. It leaves a lot of them beat-down and oppressed.
That which does not kill us makes us quote Neitzche.
I do think Nietzsche's quote could be applied to Neuburg.
"He (Crowley) was also abusively anti-Semitic towards him (Victor Neuburg)."
'My Guru rude; his personalities are becoming monstrous. They are grossly offensive...If I am again insulted I shall depart immediately,' Neuburg wrote. He could have packed his bags at any time...Yet he stayed...the bond between them was simply too strong."
"It was not unusual for Crowley to express anti-Semitic sentiments. He believed that Jews frequently earned their reputation although, he allowed, the 'Hebrew poets and prophets are sublime. The Jewish soldier is courageous, the Jewish rich man generous. The race possesses imagination, romance, loyalty, probity and humanity in an exceptional degree. But the Jew has been persecuted so relentlessly that his survival has depended on the development of his worst qualities; avarice, servility, falseness, cunning and the rest'...Crowley's attitude was widely shared in contemporary Britain. His berating Neuburg was more likely intended to strengthen the character and psyche than abuse his racial origins."
-'A Magick Life: The Life of Aleister Crowley' by Martin Booth pages 268-269
'A Magick Life' also states that Martha Kuntzel considered Crowley the mystical world leader and Hitler the temporal one. Both Crowley and Karl Germer, the Grand Treasurer of the OTO, came for a while to be convinced that Hitler was Kuntzel's magickal son, his Nazi philosophy containing many elements of the Law of Thelema. Certainly, there are obvious similarities between Crowley's writings and Hitler's conversations, as published in Raushning's 'Hitler Speaks'. These do not prove, as Crowley's detractors would have it, that he influenced Hitler. It was more a case of Hitler's own philosophy being based upon the same occult principles as those of Crowley. When war was declared Kuntzel renounced her admiration for Hitler, but not before it had been of use: it is highly possible that she was behind Germer's unexpected release from a concentration camp, after the Nazis had arrested him, in a clampdown on a number of rival occult societies. As for Crowley's opinion of Hitler, he was under no illusions. He had visited the Third Reich on a number of occasions and considered the Fuhrer to be a magician who misinterpreted the occult and, therefore, brought about his own destruction.
Throughout the 1930s Crowley worked sporadically for the British secret service. He was paid fifty pounds by Lt-Col Carter to report on the activities of his lodger Gerald Hamilton, a communist and Sinn Fein supporter, who introduced Crowley to all the leading communists in Berlin, including the influential Ernst Thalmann, whom Crowley tried to convert from communism to the Law of Thelema.
There are several well researched books on the subject of the Nazis involvement with the occult, some of which mention Crowley including; 'The Occult Roots of Nazism' and 'Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity' by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, 'Invisible Eagle: A History of Nazi Occultism' by Alan Baker and 'The Black Sun: Montauk's Nazi-Tibetan Connection' by Peter Moon.
This article claims Crowley tried to make contact with Hitler:
I think you are barking up the wrong tree with this line of thinking.
There is no contact or connection between Crowley and Hitler outside of fiction, of which there is lots.
In January 1933, when the Third Reich began on Hitler's election as chancellor, Crowley was in London and stayed there. So AC never went to the Third Reich at all. Hitler occurs a few times as a mention in Crowley's diaries but only to the same extent as any other celebrity of the day. Two or three of those times are in dreams that AC had but AC also sometimes dreamt of the Prince of Wales. There are no particularly favourable mentions. Hitler's early career was more notable for his solution the unemployment problem, improvements to the transport system and positive interventions in the motor industry. The troublesome foreign policy came later.
Writing books about Hitler is a very profitable branch of publishing. When the facts run out they drag in an unhistorical mish mash of borderline uncheckable nonsense about Tibet, Crowley, Flying saucers etc. No Dracula yet so far as I know. Although it was not known at the time Rauschning's book was a fake (the opinions really were Hitler's and there are parallels with AC but Rauschning based it on written material not converstions he had).
Anyway. Crowley's life is pretty well documented, I've read a ton of it and Hitler hardly features at all.
Crowley actually worked against Hitler, despite his instructing the German's to bomb his aunts house in print, he claimed to have advised an high ranking Navy official on the magical use of the V for victory and the thumbs up.
Just for clarity, you're referring to two different World Wars.
Owner and Editor
right....shows how closely I've been paying attention.
Interesting that 'A Magick Life' which used Crowley material with the permission of the OTO claims Master Therion "visited the Third Reich on a number of occasions" (pages 468-469), although it's possible the author could have got mixed up with Crowley's visit to Germany in 1931, when he met one of his many Scarlet Women; Bertha Busch. There was an incident when they were allegedly fighting in the street and some Hitler Youth members separated them (page 445).
O to be a fly on the wall!
It is said that when war was declared Crowley was said to have commented that "Britain would knock Hitler for six".
I don't have "A Magik Life" is there any source mentioned in a footnote for his visiting the Third Reich? Surely this would have merited a mention in "Perdurabo" if not a whole chapter.
There is no footnote, so it would be interesting to know where Martin Booth got his source material. Whether Crowley visited the Third Reich is an intriguing question though isn't it?
Crowley volunteered to help British Intelligence interview Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, who had flown to Scotland on a mission to secure peace between Britain and Germany in May 1941. Hess, an ex-member of the Thule Society, also sought to avoid war with Russia.
Maxwell Knight was a senior M15 officer and a former member of Rotha Lintorn-Orman's British Fascists (BF), who thought Crowley could be a go-between in a plan to question Hess, about his interest in astrology and the occult. Crowley wrote to Ian Fleming at the War Office to this effect. Vice-Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence however, rejected Crowley's offer.
The infamous pro-Nazi radio propagandist William Joyce (aka Lord Haw haw), jeering at nationwide church services held during the Blitz, in one of his broadcasts suggested that Crowley might preside over a Black Mass in Westminster Abbey, with more efficacious results (In fact Crowley's Gnostic Mass was not actually a Black Mass).
It is remarkable that 'The Book of the Law' appears to predict the Second World War:
"I am the Warrior Lord of the Forties"
-LIBER LEGIS 3:46
They do. And as far as Crowley himself goes (and not Thelema), they have an argument as far as “racist” and “anti-Semitic.”
Of course, it’s customary to point out that Crowley was a “man of his times,” that a great deal of people in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century would be considered a racist by today’s standards, that Crowley did express some more enlightened sentiments on race at times, yadda, yadda, yadda.
But for all that, he said some things that we today would absolutely cringe at. No, I highly doubt that he was doing it to “strengthen the character” of others.
As far as “fascist” goes, Crowley was interested in getting a world leader to accept the Law of Thelema. He was apparently – if we take him at his word – proceeding under the delusion that the nation that “accepted” the Book of the Law would be invincible (or some kind of nonsense like that). It was in this context that he was interested in contacting various world leaders and that one of the members of the OTO sent Hitler a copy of the Book of the Law.
So it’s not as if Crowley adored Hitler and desperately wanted to “convert” him to Thelema: Crowley was trying to get anyone important to accept the Law, whether it was for the bizarre reason that he gave or some other one.
Although Crowley was later convinced that Hitler knew of the ideas of Liber Legis, there’s little evidence that Hitler even read the Book, let alone was influenced by it. Despite all those stupid shows on the history channel about the “occult” connections of the Nazis, I find it very difficult to believe that Hitler would have accepted anyone – especially an eccentric Englishman – as “mystical master” of the world.
And when push came to shove, it was obvious which side Crowley was on: he worked for British intelligence and disliked Hitler. His introduction to The Book of the Law in 1938 criticized both Fascism and Communism as two sides of a totalitarian coin that were opposed to the individual liberty signified by Thelema.
If there’s anything that can be argued to have any kind of similarity with fascism, it’s this idea popular in occult circles – certainly not an idea discouraged by Crowley – that there are “mystical masters” and “spiritual masters” and “ascended masters” out there waiting to dispense the secrets of the universe if we would just swear our “oaths of obedience” and follow orders like good little boys and girls. Just look at Kuntzel, quoted above, who calls Crowley “mystical world leader” and the ruler of a country “temporal world leader”: what kind of fruitcake actually talks like that? I’ve run into people online who refer to Crowley as “our master,” and it’s absolutely creepy.
There is, I’m sorry to say, a tendency in some people to want masters, either some physical “guru” or some invisible magic man, contact with whom is supposedly the “one and only chance” for mankind to advance. This tendency is, of course, properly called “religious.” It’s the desire for there to exist someone better than the aspirant who can tell the aspirant what to do so that spirituality becomes simply a matter of following orders.
No, it's not "fascism," but it's a manifestation of the desire for some absolute leader who "knows best."
It is remarkable that 'The Book of the Law' appears to predict the Second World War
“Appears” is the right word, since the interpretation you’ve come up with is not a prediction but a post-diction. You just take events that happen later and try to make them fit with text that was written before. It’s how you can validate “prophecies” in numerous holy books…and Nostradamus….and Moby Dick, too, while you’re at it.
Agreed. I'm not going to run off and scramble for quotes, but wasn't Germer put into a concentration camp, the O.T.O. in Germany shut down, Crowley not allowed in Germany during that time, writing in his journal about living in a British war zone (in Britain)?
Is there not a lot of press covering Crowley as a "secret agent" who worked alongside the Americans and especially, the British?
In the battle of Axis and Allies, Crowley was an Ally.
In the battle of Axis and Allies, Crowley was an Ally.
Well, there's not "a lot" of press coverage of Crowley being a British Spy, certainly not during his lifetime. As little as 10-15 years ago, all anyone who was in a position to know *really* knew was that at the time of his death, Crowley was in possession of a business card and telephone number of a high-ranking official in the Home Office (of domestic intelligence), and that Crowley knew several members of the Intelligence Community, including James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming.
There were rumors connecting Crowley to Rudolph Hess' strange solo flight to the UK, (the only "fact" known is that Crowley was suggested by Ian Fleming to be present during Hess' interrogations, as Crowley would understand Hess' astrological/occult references, but this suggestion was rebuffed by his superiors) but there are rumors of Crowley re-animating the decapitated head of Emelia Earhardt in the South Pacific at the behest of the Japanese, during a time in which Crowley was known to be in Great Britain-- so what can you trust of rumors?
Now a book was published about a three years or so ago, sensationally titled "Secret Agent 666". It seems certain that Crowley was a paid Intelligence Operative (and not a "secret agent"), feeding information (true and false) to German operatives and writing outlandish pro-German propaganda in New York prior to and during WWI. There are suggestions as to motives as to some of his more mysterious travels. But while there was some meat & potatoes in this book, there was a lot of speculation. But even so, *every* Crowley biography ever published is going to need a serious re-write, because there's much more to the man than even Dr. Kaczynski documents in the 2nd Edition of "Perdurabo." There is a new Crowley bio coming out later this year, "Aleister Crowley: The Biography: Spiritual Revolutionary, Romantic Explorer, Occult Master and Spy" that includes "previously unpublished letters and research" that might capture the bigger picture we're all struggling to see.
Oh, and the FBI Crowley papers Richard Cole presumably got through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the FBI had no idea that Crowley was a British Intelligence Operative.
You can read Crowley's musings on Hitler and his relation to Martha Küntzel and Liber AL in Magick Without Tears - Morals of AL. 🙂
Kerry Bolton doesn't argue that Crowley was a fascist. The interesting argument that he makes is that Crowley and Thelema are anti-liberal. Bolton also insightfully observed that "The vast bulk of Crowley's followers, moreover, are liberal humanists as well."
Regardless, how can we respond to Crowley's anti-Semitism and is anti-liberal comments about women, blacks, Indians, and just about everyone else
1. Some, like Hymenaeus Beta (see introduction to Liber Aleph), try to get us to put his comments in "context" (making his students stronger?) so that we can interpret Crowley as actually being a liberal.
2. Or we can just say that Crowley was a "product of his times". But Crowley was well aware of feminism and there were already anti-racist and anti-imperialist movements by the time he was a young man. So does this argument really work? And, as a friend of mine has pointed out a number of times, why doesn't this argument hold today for those of us who attack Crowley for his anti-liberal comments? Are the "vast bulk of Crowley's followers" also just products of their times for their "liberal humanism"?
3. My favorite approach to this issue is to just take him seriously. What happens if, instead of rationalizing his position on women, Jews, and Indians, we ask what it was that allowed him to make these comments? What were the underlying metaphysical beliefs that these comments came from?
Taking the third approach, I come to his fundamental belief in the INequality of people. In contrast with liberalism, our fundamental nature is distinctiveness - a lack of sameness or a lack of equality. This sounds a lot like the description of the nature of man from the Holy Books. I thought Bolton made this argument clear in his articles. Does Bolton's anti-liberalism make it easier for him to see certain things in Thelema that liberals have trouble with?
Correct. AL I:3 ("Every man and every woman is a star") is often misread to mean that everyone is equal, but in fact its meaning is the opposite: every individual is unique, such that "equality" becomes a meaningless concept.
Of course, by the same token, ideas of "superior" and "inferior" are meaningless as well. Every man and every woman is a star -- each is what each one is, nothing more or less; no one is inherently "better" or "worse" than any other. Each person is just different.
And certainly one could argue that recognizing this fact -- that there's no such thing as "equality" in nature -- could serve as the justification for political measures to provide for equal treatment of all citizens under the law and for equal access to public goods.
But the issue people take with Crowley is not merely that he asserts that equality doesn’t exist – he actively goes out of his way to make blanket statements about entire groups that a lot of people think are highly unfair, to say the least.
For example, in Crowley’s description of the Five of Swords, in The Book of Thoth, he refers to the Jews as the “vilest of the parasitic races.” Such comments – and comments like them can be easily found throughout Crowley’s writings – aren’t simply challenges to the notion of equality itself…they are flat-out racist statements that will probably make most readers feel uncomfortable.
I've never understood why this comes as so great a surprise to some people, but Thelema is not "liberal" in some classical senses of the term. It is liberal when it comes to freedom of personal choice by individuals doing their Will, but it also insists that "Every man and every woman is a star," (not a spark!), and that each is uncompromisingly unique in manifestation (although alike in essence). Therefore, in Thelema, no one is created (manifested) equal to any other. Also, "thou hast no right but to do thy will." The human organism is compelled by the Law of Thelema to fulfill his or her own natural function or purpose in life and no other, the alternative being slavery to falsehood of one sort or another. Further, "this is the law of the strong," which implies that individual independence (a typically "conservative" hallmark) is of equal importance to individual freedom (a typically "liberal" hallmark). I believe that the only logical conclusion is that Thelema is a hybrid of these two (customarily opposing) ideologies.
Crowley makes this explicit in his declaration of irish independence (which while there may be arguments that it was purely a propaganda piece, or parody , seems to sum up his political thought quite well.)
"We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all men and women are created unequal; and our justice wills that this prejudice of nature be redressed, so far as is possible to human effort, by assuring to each and every one of them equality of rights before the law."
i am sure this attitude is echoed elsewhere in crowleys work, individuals are indeed unequal, but they should be granted equality under the law, and allowed to 'live by their own law', free from imposed restrictions - hence thelemas incompatibility with facism.
That example from the BoT is a flat-out racist statement if he really meant it. It's also a statement that would fall under the category of the 5 of Swords so it might have been Crowley adopting the persona or *mask* of that card to provide a shock.
Yes, I considered that -- it's certainly an appropriate place for that comment, as you note.
But in the first place, I don't recall Crowley writing each of the descriptions of the tarot cards in the "voice" of that particular card. I'd be delighted to be proven wrong on this point, but I don't think he did. So if he didn't do it consistently throughout the book, it casts doubt on the possibility that he decided to do it randomly for one card.
In the second place -- and this is the real nail in the coffin -- he makes the "parasites" remark in other places, perhaps most famously in his New Comment to AL III:11: in the context of writing about "The Ritual of the Adoration of Ra-Hoor-Khuit":
"it appears rather as if expeditions against the Heathen: i.e. Christians and other troglodytes -- but most especially the parasites of man, the Jews -- were to be His rite." (emphasis added)
This is the kind of stuff that people find objectionable in Crowley, not the relatively tame observation that "equality" is a meaningless idea.
I don't think the rest of the Book of the Law or the other Holy Books will let us go with this idea that we can't and shouldn't make judgements or value things and people differently. But I have seen people take the idea that we're all stars and interpret in exactly this way many times. But what does this get us? In effect, interpreted the way you took it, it's a statement of equality. We are all the same after all. But, again, the rest of the book seems to make it impossible to accept this sort of interpretation.
Bolton, again, argues convincingly in the articles that helped prompt this thread, that the Book of Law and Crowley both acknowledge not just difference, but a hierarchical ranking of those differences.
But why is his racism so interesting today? Is either attacking or covering up his racism really the most interesting thing that we can do with his statements? I was arguing that there's something else we can do with them. Let's get to the root of them.
It seems to me that once we get to the root the belief in equality that drives these concerns about his racism is itself rejected by the Holy Books and Crowley. I find that much more interesting than the fact that Crowley was racist and misogynistic. The widespread concern about Crowley's racism and misogyny suggests to me that, contrary to what you argue, people are in fact deeply concerned about his rejection of equality. Did you not in your post try to find a way to bring equality back into Thelema?
I appreciated these crisp summations, but I doubt that you will change any minds. The conflicts that occur when you are in opposition to your prophet, to this extent, are what keep the community so marginalized and so uninteresting. They aren't ready to get beyond this.
A friend told me yesterday that the "all of us are stars" argument is like saying we all have two eyes and two legs, or breathe the air. Big deal. After you assert it, what does it get you?
One of the ways we can see the absurdity in trying to purport that Thelema is somehow humanistic and egalitarian is to judge the reactions of humanists and egalitarians who read Crowley's work and the Holy Books. One of them said to me recently, "But Liber Al isn't liberal or egalitarian!" It seemed patently obvious to him. He had no need to make it fit his preexisting beliefs.
Kerry Bolton has also written two thought-provoking books: 'Aleister Crowley and the Conservative Revolution' and 'The Warrior Mage: General J.F.C. Fuller'. What is interesting is that he shows that Crowley was not alone in his anti-liberal attitude, within the occult community. He quotes Dion Fortune, founder of the Society of the Inner Light as stating, "The White Race contains the most evolved- the Aryan". And H.P. Blavatsky as writing in her book 'The Secret Doctrine' that she formulated her Theosophical concept of a heirachy of "root races" , and held that these had been subject to degradation via "race-mixing", and that the Jews were considered "an abnormal and unnatural link between the Fourth and Fifth Root Races", and that furthermore "the Aryans, the most advanced, developed into the Fifth Root Race from a subrace in Asia". Also, P.D. Ouspensky, the principal exponent of Gurdgieff drew on the caste system of Aryan India, for his system of social organisation in his book 'A New Model of the Universe'.
I think we can go beyond this sort of liberal/conservative dichotomy with Thelema. First, if we look at what Bolton is talking about, he's not discussing liberal in the sense of a liberal/conservative opposition. He's referring to a broader ideology coming from the Enlightenment. It's a general belief in equality, representative government, individual freedom, and progress. In the United States especially, both "liberals" and "conservatives" agree on all of these points. American conservatives are actually left-wingers.
Bolton is contrasting liberalism, in the broader sense, with "Traditionalism", in the sense of Rene Guenon and Julius Evola, as well as with the anti-liberalism of Nietzsche. So he's really saying that Thelema is largely right wing and, therefore, opposed to both liberalism and conservatism, at least in the American usage of those terms.
I didn't say that "we can't and shouldn't make judgments or value things and people differently." The point of AL I: 3 and a number of other verses (including especially I: 4 and I: 22) is that each person, thing, and event is unique, such that it is impossible to draw comparisons between them (literally, "let there be no difference made"...each is "infinite" as it is).
Thus, saying something like, "Helping the poor is better than going out to a party" cannot be said to be objectively true or false. Each of those actions is a unique fulfillment of a possibility, and it's impossible to say that one is inherently better than another, any more than we can say "Cereal is inherently better than flowers."
This being the case, there's no objective standard by which to choose actions, so the only basis that's left for an individual to make decisions are the preferences that are natural to the individual, i.e. the "true will."
Now, just because we cannot inherently "make a difference" between any two things, that doesn't mean that we cannot set up an arbitrary standard and use that to measure things. A pen isn't inherently "better" than a brick, but if we're in a context where we need to write something, a pen is indeed "better" in that particular context.
So while we can recognize that going to a party isn't inherently better than helping the poor, we can also recognize that in a given context, like, for example, having a will to attend the party, we can say that going to the party is the option that best fulfills the will in that situation.
The problem is that people do "make a difference" and get it in their heads that helping the poor is somehow inherently good or get it in their heads that helping the poor is somehow inherently bad, and before you know it, they're acting out of ideas that their minds dream up, rather than recognizing their actual inclinations in a situation and following those.
So, in short, we're perfectly free to make value judgments and to prefer one thing to another. The whole idea of having a "will" implies preferring one course of action over another. But our preferences are relative and arbitrary, not absolute. As Crowley puts it in Liber Aleph:
"Praise then or blame aught, as seemeth good unto thee; but with this reflection, that thy judgment is relative to thine own condition, and not absolute. This also is a point of tolerance, whereby thy shalt avoid indeed those things that are hateful or noxious to thee, unless thou canst (in our mode) win them by love, by withdrawing thine attention from them; but thou shalt not destroy them, for that they are without doubt the desire of another."
And, of course, in the highest stages of attainment, the Master of the Temple relinquishes all preference in thought entirely. He is thus no longer identified with his will -- and no longer identified with anything -- though he also has no reason to interfere with his will, which continues to proceed on its merry way.
But what does [the correct interpretation Los has just offered] get us?
It "gets us" a very practical method for discovering the will. If you can rid your mind of the tendency to regard things as "objectively good" or "objectively bad," then you are well on your way to seeing through the mental fog that your Khu is using to covering your true self.
Morality isn't the only obstacle, by far, but it's a big one, and it's one that most people have a lot of trouble with.
In effect, interpreted the way you took it, it's a statement of equality. We are all the same after all.
I suggest you re-read what I wrote. It's not a statement of equality because I'm saying that the idea of equality -- and, corresponding, the idea of inequality -- has no objective meaning whatsoever.
the Book of Law and Crowley both acknowledge not just difference, but a hierarchical ranking of those differences.
For some reason, I can't open Bolton's article, but I'll comment in general on this.
First, Crowley. As should be obvious, Crowley had values that are apparent in his writings. These values include sentiments that many of us today -- with our values -- judge to be "racist." Indeed, this is a kind of "hierarchical ranking," whereby whites (and the English, in particular) are ranked above many other races.
Now I'm not saying that it's "morally wrong" to be a racist. I'm merely pointing out that these racist elements exist in Crowley's writings and that a lot of people (myself included) find them pretty disgusting. To deny that -- or to try to pretend that Crowley's racism was part of his brilliant plan to "strengthen the character" of others or was part of a clever literary strategy -- is to overlook part of his character.
Second, The Book of the Law. Now, the Book does contain passages that involve "ranking" in a certain sense -- I'm sure you're thinking specifically of passages discussing Masters and slaves, kings and "low men."
It's important to note, of course, that the Book is not talking about literal kings, although it certainly can be applied to them. One does not need to literally rule of a kingdom -- nor be a male -- to be a "king" in the sense of the Book of the Law. The Book is, obviously, talking about those who are doing their wills.
But here again, being a "king" in this sense isn't inherently "better" than being a slave. That's right, you just read that correctly: there's nothing inherently "good" about doing your will as opposed to not doing your will. A lot of people may prefer to do their will, if given the option, but a great deal of people -- stuck in their ideas of "good" and "bad" and "orders of rank" -- will prefer to be slaves to their ideas of hierarchical rankings of behavior, slaves to their ideas that it's "good" to be such-and-such kind of person, even if they're not that kind of person.
The Book of the Law is just telling us the facts of nature:
"Yea! deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, & not other. Therefore the kings of the earth shall be Kings for ever: the slaves shall serve. There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was." ( II: 58 )
Indeed. There's nothing good or bad about this. It's the way that it is. And for the individual, "all is ever as it was." There's no escaping from who you are, even though you can try to obscure that reality by telling yourself stories that it's "good" to be a different kind of person than you are.
But why is [Crowley's] racism so interesting today?
It's not, really. It's a matter of public record.
But since some goofy people think he's the "mystical world leader" or whatnot -- and since these same people apparently think it's "bad" to be racist -- we see all these silly attempts to paint his racism as attempts to "strengthen the character of his disciples" or "test his readers," etc. So it's a valuable exercise, in and of itself, to cut through all that BS and acknowledge reality for what it is.
the belief in equality that drives these concerns about his racism [...] people are in fact deeply concerned about his rejection of equality
I don't agree with your premise that people are "concerned about his racism" because of "the belief in equality."
Sure, there are some hysterical "won't someone please think about the children!" types who react this way, and I definitely agree that making a big deal out of Crowley's racism is usually unwarranted. I myself hardly ever bring it up -- unless, of course, the topic of conversation is Crowley's racism, in which case, it's hard to avoid doing so.
But all that aside, there are plenty of people who are interested in studying Crowley as he was, "warts and all." And this includes acknowledging things about him that we don't like and not trying to whitewash them as attempts to "strengthen the character of others."
Did you not in your post try to find a way to bring equality back into Thelema?
Right. We all agree that there are ways that everyone's the same. But the real is issue is are we the same in ways that matter. Or, perhaps more important, is it more significant that we're different or that we're the same? The choice that someone makes about this will reveal their values. I assert, as does Crowley and Thelema, that we are all fundamentally different. I say this because we are different in the ways that matter. Our sameness is only with the trivial.
And if we do change Thelema to fit our preexisting beliefs, then what's the point of Thelema? It just becomes an affectation.
Kerry Bolton's thought-provoking books only seem to be referenced by some national-socialist websites. Also, Falcon, I don't see the point of your post exactly. Do you want to argue that all these writers must have been somehow "right" about "the jews"? I think this thread has shown already that Thelema is about the uniqueness and difference of each individual, but that there is no better or worse individual. I don't see anything metaphysical in AC's personal racist belief systems.
"Every man and every woman is a star."
"The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs."
I see it as a message of essence, not equality.
"Stamp down the wretched and the weak."
"Pity not the fallen. I never knew them. I am not for them."
"This is the law of the strong."
"This is our law, and the joy of the world."
Some simple quotes that come up from memory.
Thelema asserts an Atman, a Higher Self, True Will, Essential Self, whatever you want to call it. In that every man and every woman can utilize this concept, we are equal. Everyone's ability to understand and utilize it is not. This effectively creates variety and diversity among human beings. Likewise, every star, upon reaching maturity, can either go Supernova or turn into a White Dwarf... can annihilate itself, spreading the fruits of its labor outwards in the universe, or can hold onto itself and fold inward, becoming a cold collection of atomic mass. The Supernova creates change, while the White Dwarf denies it. Is this so different than the Magister Templi and the Black Brother?
It becomes increasingly interesting to me when I see that though there is some Atman, it is useful in matters pertaining to one's self, as a sort of spiritual survival mechanism. Beyond the word and the fool, there is nothing... and equality is but an illusion.
I also think that statements about the "Thelemic community" often point to more common parts of the community, and not the exceptions which the Book of the Law is designed to uplift. There are some that will argue that many members of the "Thelemic community" are not necessarily Thelemites, but seeds, if you will, waiting to become Thelemites. In that case, it would be erroneous to judge say, all of the "Thelemites" on this website, and in other places, by the same standards, as many of them are not yet Thelemites.
Just to be clear, Thelema asserts that the "true self" of each person is unique, making the idea that any two true selves could be equal or unequal meaningless nonsense.
Each individual is a unique collection of possibilities that it is fulfilling. Comparisons simply can't be made, unless we set up an arbitrary basis of comparison for whatever our purposes are.
Thus, we can say that one person is "physically stronger" than another, but we can't say that that person is "better" than the other.
Just to be clear, Thelema asserts that the "true self" of each person is unique, making the idea that any two true selves could be equal or unequal meaningless nonsense.
Each individual is a unique collection of possibilities that it is fulfilling. Comparisons simply can't be made, unless we set up an arbitrary basis of comparison for whatever our purposes are.
Thus, we can say that one person is "physically stronger" than another, but we can't say that that person is "better" than the other.
Yes. Equal that we all have it, variety and diversity in having it.
Spiritual DNA. The True Will itself is a basic genotype of every human (at the least). The phenotype is how that Will effects the individual.
I think my misreading of your statement wasn't unreasonable, but thanks for the clarification. While one could emphasize that there's no inherent difference of value, one could, on the other hand, emphasize the fact that we each have our own inherent basis upon which we can and must make judgements and rank things and people according to our own values. But even saying what you did in your clarification necessitates us accepting the supremacy of the individual Will. This is a judgement in which values are ranked. I place the individual Will above faith and reason.
I do have to wonder how serious you are about inequality and not caring about Crowley's racism. First of all, you did say previously that his racism was disgusting and unfair. You've judged. What drove that judgement. What drives you to have such a strong reaction?
In your response to my initial post, you suggested that we might take the idea of our distinctiveness and point it towards equal treatment and access. Will this then drive us into the position of wanting "to make the Cingalese wear furs and the Tibetans vote, and the whole world chew gum" (I:13-31, New Comment)? "The Golden Rule is silly. If Lord Alfred Douglas (for example) did to others what he would like them to do to him, many would resent his actions." If we really accept distinctiveness, must we then not also acknowledge the differing histories and environments of peoples and allow them to act in accordance with them? Must Angolans, Iraqis, and Canadians all live under equality of law? Must we really let all people, even in a single country, vote, no matter how stupid they are?
Really, no one thinks that everyone should have equal access to voting. Who thinks three-year-olds should get to vote? No one. We make judgements about fitness for voting.
You might not think that Crowley's racism and misogyny is much of a concern to most people, but I've seen it come up as a sticking point again and again. If most people really don't care, then why all the attempts to, on the one hand, minimize or cover up his prejudice or, on the other hand, to marginalize the importance of Crowley for Thelema? Even HB plays this game. Where is this coming from if not from peoples' values, values such as equality? I don't find it convincing to say that, except for a few, all of this is just disinterested discussion about the "man", "warts and all". In fact, such a phrase suggests to me exactly this game - it's a way of distancing his views from Thelema. Now, maybe that's actually correct. But I get more out of trying to see if and how Crowley's views on such things come from his highest values and whether or not those highest values can teach me anything about Thelema.
Briefly on Crowley racism, it was very real, and there is no sense in denying the obvious.
As for me, I feel that if race truly does not matter, and I believe that it does not, all forms of racial and cultural pride must be transcended in favor of Thelemic individualism, because it is only thereby that racial prejudice will diminish. Today most of us like to embrace and honor racial and cultural pride, while holding racial or cultural prejudice in disdain. This is a self defeating policy if there ever was one. If race really does not matter, it ought to be put out of mind as a positive attribute, and negative connotation will automatically become irrelevant.
Just my 2 cents.
We are in agreement on these points.
I do have to wonder how serious you are about inequality and not caring about Crowley's racism.
For the ease of communication, I reproduce below exactly what I originally said:
" Now I'm not saying that it's "morally wrong" to be a racist. I'm merely pointing out that these racist elements exist in Crowley's writings and that a lot of people (myself included) find them pretty disgusting. To deny that -- or to try to pretend that Crowley's racism was part of his brilliant plan to "strengthen the character" of others or was part of a clever literary strategy -- is to overlook part of his character.
"I definitely agree that making a big deal out of Crowley's racism is usually unwarranted. I myself hardly ever bring it up -- unless, of course, the topic of conversation is Crowley's racism, in which case, it's hard to avoid doing so."
With that out of the way, let's return to what you were saying:
First of all, you did say previously that his racism was disgusting and unfair. You've judged. What drove that judgement. What drives you to have such a strong reaction?
Obviously, my values drive my judgments. But no, these values do not, as I assume you are implying, include valuing "equality."
These values include a distaste for sweeping generalizations applied to entire groups, distaste for the use of epithets -- particularly references to insects, like "parasites" -- to describe groups of human beings, and a specific distaste for the anti-Semitic slurs and sweeping generalizations that would, in Crowley's lifetime, be used partially as justification for a particularly heinous act of ethnic cleansing (and I find ethnic cleansings distasteful because of a number of other values). More generally, I have a strong distaste of stupidity, and most expressions of racism -- relying as they do on sweeping generalizations that tend to overlook individual particulars -- are ridiculously stupid ("To generalize is to be an idiot," writes Blake, doubtlessly with a wink over the page).
So that's your answer as to why I find it disgusting. But yes, as I've said, I really, for the most part, could care less that Crowley exhibited the kind of racism that a lot of people in his day did. In case you're scratching your head, that's not a contradiction. For example, if I found out that you had a habit that I find disgusting (like, say I found out that you pick your nose in public), I wouldn't really care. It would be totally irrelevant to our online conversations, I would never feel moved to bring it up in our online conversations, and I probably wouldn't give it much of a second thought. But whenever I *did* think of it, I would feel disgusted by it.
Maybe a good analogy would be Wagner. I like Wagner's music, and I acknowledge that he was an anti-Semite. His racist attitudes don't make his music any less beautiful. When I talk about his work, his attitudes are almost never relevant, so I hardly ever bring them up, and frankly, I never really give too much thought to them. But whenever I do think of them, I find myself disgusted by them.
And, of course, if somebody tried to argue that Wagner expressed anti-Semitic sentiments just because he wanted to "test" others or "strengthen" them (such as Nietzsche, who, by the way, despised Wagner's anti-Semitism), then it would be entirely relevant to discuss it.
In your response to my initial post, you suggested that we might take the idea of our distinctiveness and point it towards equal treatment and access.
Yes, I said "one could argue that."
If we really accept distinctiveness, must we then not also acknowledge the differing histories and environments of peoples and allow them to act in accordance with them?
There aren't any absolute "musts" -- just values. But sure, I don't have any problem with what you're saying. I for one don't give a flying fuck what the Angolans, Iraqis, and Canadians do, as long as they leave me alone to do my will.
No one was suggesting that we should force different cultures to live "under equality of law."
But in the United States, at least, we have a tradition of granting people equal access to public goods under the law. I was merely pointing out that the recognition that "not all men are created equal" could serve as the basis for creating such equal access, for those of us who prefer to live in societies like that.
Must we really let all people, even in a single country, vote, no matter how stupid they are?
Again, there aren't any absolute "musts" -- only values. In the US, we have a cultural climate of valuing giving every citizen over 18 a vote. That's just the way it is, and it's not going to change any time soon.
Personally, I don't vote and I don't particularly care about politics, as long as I'm left alone to do my will.
I disagree with your unspoken premise that "smarter" people -- however you intend to measure that -- would necessarily make "better" electoral choices -- however you intend to measure that. I definitely disagree with the premise -- not spoken or implied by you, but somewhat common in Thelemic discussions -- that governments would best be run by a group of Thelemic wizards (unless, of course, they were level 10 wizards with vorpal swords +2, +5 against praeterhuman intelligences).
You might not think that Crowley's racism and misogyny is much of a concern to most people, but I've seen it come up as a sticking point again and again.
I didn't say it's not "much of a concern to most people." I said: "I don't agree with your premise that people are "concerned about his racism" because of "the belief in equality.""
To clarify: I'm not disagreeing that a lot of people are concerned about Crowley's comments. I'm disagreeing with your claim that the reason they're concerned about them is predominantly that they have a "belief in equality."
To clarify further: I agree that a lot of people who object to Crowley's racism probably do have a "belief in equality" -- since our society does promote the idea that "equality" is some kind of inherent good. However, I'm claiming that the vast, vast, vast majority of people -- even if they were to be convinced that "equality" and "inequality" were meaningless concepts -- would continue to object to Crowley's racism and misogyny, not on "moral" grounds, but on the grounds of their values.
Of course Crowley was racist, look at the generation he comes from. I challenge to find a more enlightened sort from among his peers. Who cares? Did he actively promote racist idealogy? Not really, not in any significant way. WHat difference does it make if he were racist or not? Does that create a conflict within you? Your hero isn't the man you wanted him to be? Should you be racist too? DOes Crowley's racism make his ideas and his teachings invalid? Are you afraid to think for yourself?
Just in passing, this practice is why we in the US do not have what those who founded our country insisted was a prerequisite for a successful democracy: a well informed electorate. It is also why what Crowley said in condemning democracy in general is true, that the average voter is a moron. You would think that our standards would be a bit higher for participation in self-government, we don't even let everyone who is over 18 drive a car, they are required to study the 'rules of the road' first and then pass a test.
Just in passing, this practice is why we in the US do not have what those who founded our country insisted was a prerequisite for a successful democracy: a well informed electorate. .
If I am not mistaken only landowners could originally vote. Ostensibly, this meant those voting had something at stake and a reason to be engaged with the issues... They also barred women and non-Europeans from voting which, at the time I suppose, was their back-assward way of thinking they were keeping an informed electorate...
Given the choice I'd rather all citizens have a vote rather than a test for the privilege to vote. Remember, these are the same people who gave us the TSA. There are compelling and interesting arguments about what it means to be a citizen in Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Its handled with much more clarity and dignity in the book than the "Doogie Himmler" film version.
Also, in regards to AEternitas; I think you really hit the nail on the head. AC was as racist as the average white male in 1910. I'd venture he was less racist or at least less colonial in his attitudes toward other cultures. He is a far cry from Lovecraft, another who is often defended as a product of his time, when in fact Lovecraft's racism was a feverish poetry of pathological hate woven into the fabric of his work. Crowley was just a dick.
Given the choice I'd rather all citizens have a vote rather than a test for the privilege to vote. Remember, these are the same people who gave us the TSA.
You forgot to mention how, in the American South of old, they used to question blacks who tried to register to vote repeatedly until they got an answer wrong, and then deny them the right to vote. Obviously such a thing as this could not be approached casually or incompetently.
The consensus seems to be that fascism and national socialism is incompatible with Thelema, and the debate is in regards to Crowley's alleged 'racism', 'nationalism' and 'anti-Semitism'. It has also been argued persuasively that Crowley at times made non-racist comments, for example in 'Confessions' he criticised the Ku Klux Klan. On the other hand there are Thelemites who consider political correctness to have gone too far.
Yes, AC was also an anti-racist; as either perspective suited him, he took it up. It's a non-issue, imo, he died and we live on, at present. Most people are racist in favor of their own race or, out of a misplaced sense of guilt, in favor of some other race. A total non-issue again, imo, because each race, collectively, are such embarrassments, including my own. Ditto regarding nationalism.
Fascism and racism are two quite different and separate ideas. Sometimes they occur together but not always. Modern fascism dates from Mussolini who wanted to revive ancient Roman values as he saw them. Germany and Spain only got included in the term because those who disapproved of Mussolini also disapproved of those too (as they were in the 1930s.) From the etymology fascism is the maintenance of order through harsh penalties so Crowley and Thelema are definitely not even remotely similar as AC's idea of strong penalty stops at 'shunning' which he probably derived from his Plymouth Brethren upbringing.
Crowley was intent on becoming the World Teacher not any sort of World Leader. He is also not remotely nationalist. England and the British Empire were his most frequently criticised localities and systems.
In my opinion Crowley is also not racist in any real sense - the term itself has changed during my lifetime. It once meant taking part in pogroms, genocides, 'ethnic cleansing' or some organising activity connected to behaviours like those or inspiring those activities. The modern usage has been stretched to include talking or writing - even privately if it can be discovered - about races other than one's one in demeaning or disparaging ways.
This is a free speech issue. Generally speaking French women are elegant, Germans efficient, Americans enterprising, Muslims devout and Chinamen clever. Perhaps they are not though. If uttering a compliment is acceptable why not the opposite. The target can't be expected to like it but it's only an opinion and if someone doesn't like it they can present their own contrary opinion.
Anti-Semitism is a special case but it has only become so in the light of a history that has become clear after the period under discussion. There is a Jewish word for non-Jews, Goyim or gentiles. Presumably Jewish people have a set of ideas that apply to the people so described.
In public and private Crowley was very frequently opinionated, spiteful and plain damn rude. He is like this to friend and foe alike - Mudd, Germer, Yorke, Regardie, Grant everyone. This brilliant man was trying to work and obviously got exasperated by his less than adequate companions. When the clouds passed he was as nice as pie again. His disdain for Anglo-Indians, Jews etc. is more than matched by his disdain for the English. He always spoke well of Pathans and usually of Muslims.
Crowley was good at disdain and sometimes employed it deliberately. Someone on this site generously provided me with a copy of The Black Messiah.This is an unedifying attempt to denigrate Krishnamurti in the eyes of Theosophists principally on the grounds of race. It was not published, sent or used - possibly because it had no chance of being effective; Theosophists generally liked anything from the 'Mystic East'. To make anything of it is to judge a man by the contents of his waste basket.
I think the complexity of Crowley deserves better than to be summed up by the shifting vagaries of a lazy metaphorical dysphemism.
"My skin pigment is better than yours" lololol
You are all the same colour when you get peeled...
Quite right Camlion; well said OK.
Crowley is consider racist primarily it seems for things he wrote. Yet he repeatedly promoted and publicly identified himself with AL I:3 - "Every man and every woman is a star" which obviously transcends racial and gender egos.
Crowley seemed very aware of his own foibles and did not hide his character flaws. In a letter to Jane Wolfe quoted in her Red Flame bio he says that he intentionally made known his short comings so people could learn from his mistakes. I suggest the possibility that he deliberately put an extremely racist and charged statement in the Book of Thoth's 5 of Swords description to expose his and society's racist programming and to identify it for what it was. It also makes the point of giving a strong feel for the 5 of Swords in a shocking fashion.
There was an argument some time ago by a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, whose name of course I cannot recall, to the effect that many Westerners make a mistake in taking seriously their Tibetan teachers' comments on the issues such as economy, science, or gender relations (don't quote me on this - it's just the gist of the argument). Of course they had an opinion on these issues, and of course they were often ill founded. I think this applies also to Crowley. He liked to talk about everything and anything, but he was far from being an expert on each and every subject. One can learn from him a lot when it comes to magick in all its branches - there he was a genius, no doubt. His opinions on politics, race, economy, women, education of children, and a host of other topics is to be taken with a huge grain of salt, and some of it is best forgotten immediately.
We are talking about Crowley the human, right?
I don't think these things are at all incompatible with Thelema, any more than being a capitalist or liking pizza is incompatible with Thelema.
"Thelema" is an individual philosophy, and it's conceivably compatible with any and all political systems.
Whether we, as individuals, prefer one system over another is an entirely separate question.
It has also been argued persuasively that Crowley at times made non-racist comments
The vast majority of the things he said were "non-racist." I think you mean to say "anti-racist" here, and I think one of the more interesting places to see this attitude is in that letter in Magick Without Tears about "Monsters."
People tend to forget he was actually a human being. It was perfectly normal for Crowley, and for people in his times, to be racist. To imply that he was so to strengthen the weaknesses of his chelas or other balderdash is puerile.
Also, many in the 20s and 30s fell under the spell of the fascination for totalitarian regimes. It would not make Crowley a monster if he looked with admiration to one, or some, of them.
A man is not what he writes, or what he preaches: The recent example of catholic priests comes to mind.
Is it so hard to separate the message from the messenger, Crowleyanity as a cult of personality from Thelema?
Crowley on patriotism:
"We do not accuse Isiah of being unpatriotic because he thunders against Israel. Isiah's motive is mine...I feel myself to be an integral element of this England: what I do, I do for her sake. I may have to scrub her face with yellow soap, open an abscess, or extirpate a cancer. Working as I do in a world of spiritual causes altogether beyond the comprehension of common people, I am liable to be misunderstood."
-'Confessions' page 740
AC certainly was misunderstood when he was called a 'traitor' by the gutter press during World War One, for writing for the German newspapers 'The Fatherland' and 'The International'. He subsequently made it clear that he did this to discredit their propaganda to help Britain.
I take on board your argument that it is possible for an individual Thelemite to be pro-fascist or national socialist (re: J.F.C. Fuller and Martha Kuntzel). In the book 'Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International' by Kevin Coogan, he mentions that Christian Bouchet was associated with the French OTO, and he edits an occult journal 'Thelema', and founded a 'third-positionist' nationalist Nouvelle Resistance group and the European Liberation Front.