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Why did Crowley refuse to complete his degree?  

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dom
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28/01/2020 11:02 pm  

Couldn't be bothered?  I doubt it.  


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ignant666
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28/01/2020 11:22 pm  

There isn't anything in the record to suggest that he ever did much work related to his studies while at Cambridge. In his time devoted to not studying, he had meanwhile developed other interests, in topics not covered at that university (at least at that time- i'm confident folks are studying all three there now): rock-climbing, sodomy, and magick.

As Symonds puts it "He had done little work during his three years there, but the time had not been wasted, for he had discovered what he wanted to be- an Adept in the Secret Arts, a Magus. [...] What was the good, he argued, of becoming a diplomat [what he was supposed to be studying towards]? He would soon be forgotten." [The Great Beast, 1973 Mayflower ed., p. 28]


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dom
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28/01/2020 11:49 pm  

People complete their degrees whilst being involved in all kinds of other activities. 


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ignant666
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29/01/2020 12:01 am  

Yes, but i think they are expected to supplement those "other activities" by going to class or tutorials, writing papers, and taking exams- AC seems to have taken one exam, written no academic papers, and there is no mention in any bio of him ever attending a class or tutorial.

So he wasn't making much progress towards a degree, and had developed interests in things they couldn't teach him at Cambridge. The logical conclusion was: drop out. i did the same, at about the same age, for much the same reasons (replace sodomy and rock-climbing with punk rock in my case).


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djedi
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29/01/2020 12:04 am  

Plato's allegory of the cave ends with the freed prisoners crawling out to see the sun that cast the light for the evil puppet show they were forced to watch. It did not end with the prisoners saying, "Well, it's nice to be free, but maybe I'll stay here in the cave anyway just to catch the end of the show."

AC left college when he realized the frivolity and pointlessness of it.

In the amended words of Frank Zappa, "If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the Isis-Urania Temple."


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dom
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29/01/2020 12:37 am  

But wouldn't they have thrown him out after his first year of bad grades/non attendance?  As I understand he went all the way to the final exam but refused to take the final exam.  


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Shiva
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29/01/2020 3:07 am  
Posted by: @dom

People complete their degrees whilst being involved in all kinds of other activities.

That is correct. People also drop out of the mill due to becoming involved in anything under the Sun, except pushing for that damn degree.

Posted by: @djedi

AC left college when he realized the frivolity and pointlessness of it.

And then he ended up a bankrupt pauper, reliant on funds trickled to him by Germer and Agape Lodge.

One of the lectures I attended by Manly P. Hall dealt with the necessity to develop a skill ... so that one didn't end up a bankrupt pauper.

I would echo that sentiment.

Writing, painting, and most creative, artistic skills are not a real skill in the real world of earning one's daily bread. We hear of starving artists and starving writers.

Manly insisted this should apply to rich folks. He cited some King who was proud to show how he could shoe a horse.

Posted by: @dom

he went all the way to the final exam but refused to take the final exam.  

That's his story. yes. He wrote that he refused to take the exam because he knew more than the examiners.

 


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christibrany
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29/01/2020 4:41 am  

He lacked the discipline at that point in life, to finish.

He just made excuses like most people these days who are 'too good for it' 

 

One could argue he rarely had any discipline except in very specific cases such as yoga and writing.

 

The ideal of a renaissance man is one to strive to, even if it may be historically false. 

I believe we should all be both fit and smart, able and foolish.

I think AC was more headstrong than anything.  In a bad way.

But I never met him.

 


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dom
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29/01/2020 8:21 am  

@shiva

 

That's his story. yes. He wrote that he refused to take the exam because he knew more than the examiners.

 

Are you joking?  


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Jamie J Barter
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29/01/2020 9:58 am  
Posted by: @dom

Are you joking?  

I believe Salvador Dali made pretty much the same statement, when explaining why he didn't bother to attend Art classes.  Making certain historical allowances, perhaps William Shakespeare tried pulling the same number when being taught English at school ...

As chris says, it could be interpreted as

Posted by: @christibrany

He just made excuses like most people these days who are 'too good for it' 

but irrespective of whether true or not, as a riposte it's a nice line!

Altogether too good for this joint,

N Joy


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dom
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29/01/2020 12:42 pm  

He was doing English Literature at Cambridge?  I guess he knew he never wanted to teach English after the degree but what a waste.


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RTC
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29/01/2020 12:55 pm  

Had Crowley Left with an average degree, he was indistinguishable from 100s of other random nobodies who did likewise, each year.  Conversely, quit and avoid mediocrity by joining the elite ranks of Byron, Shelly, Swinburne and Tennyson.  So, a combination of snobbery, ego and good ol’ fashioned spin. 😌 

"Like Byron, Shelly, Swinburne and Tennyson, I left the university without taking a degree. It has been better so; I have accepted no honour from her; she has had much from me. I wanted the spirit of the university and I passed my examinations in order to be able to imbibe it without interference from the authorities, but I saw no sense in paying fifteen guineas for the privilege of wearing a long black gown more cumbersome than the short blue one, and paying thirteen and fourpence instead of six and eightpence if I were caught smoking in it. I had no intention of becoming a parson or a schoolmaster; to write B.A. after my name would have been a decided waste of ink." (Confessions)


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RuneLogIX
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29/01/2020 1:00 pm  
Posted by: @dom

He was doing English Literature at Cambridge?  I guess he knew he never wanted to teach English after the degree but what a waste.

Well he wanted to be a poet and by extension a writer which he very much lived up to most of his life.

 

Personal opinion, his personal studies in English literature would haunt him later on life, and he seemed to be believe they replicate the success of great English writers through imitation which you will find in his Collected Works which is for the most part extremely banal and is completely dismissed by critics then as now. I have tried more then once to read the whole set and completely fail by finding more interesting things to do in short order.

One of his great dislikes is how uncultured and boorish Americans (I believe his exact phrase was "a cultural desert")  because they had not internalized Shakespeare or Milton as much as he had. Which is funnily enough a common rant you will find in highly educated "Ivy League" Brits to the present day! In current year I believe the British school systems teaches Shakespeare to a far more religious degree of enthusiasm (which is perhaps quite understandable) then done in American High Schools which limit it to two or three of his more important works.

Force and Fire is not metaphorical. In Prophetes Veritas Venit.


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ignant666
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29/01/2020 1:32 pm  

AC's "major" was not literature but the "Moral Science Tripos". This course of study included psychology, formal logic, political economy, metaphysics, politics, ethics, and related topics. It did not include any study of literature, or any writing of poetry.

See

http://www.irwincollier.com/cambridge-on-the-moral-sciences-tripos-james-ward-editor-1891/

and

https://archive.org/details/studentsguidetou00univuoft/page/n6/mode/2up

Symonds says "he found himself repelled by political economy which was one of his subjects. He says nothing of the other subjects of his course, only that for one day of those three years he worked on a Greek play [which probably was not an assigned task, since literature and classical languages were not part of his curriculum]. He spent most of his time reading and writing poetry [again, not schoolwork]." [p. 25, op. cit.]


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Jamie J Barter
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29/01/2020 1:58 pm  
Posted by: @ignant666

AC's "major" was not literature but the "Moral Science Tripos". […] It did not include any study of literature, or any writing of poetry.

However Wiki (that fount of all knowledge) says:

[I]n October 1895 Crowley began a three-year course at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was entered for the Moral Science Tripos studying philosophy. With approval from his personal tutor, he changed to English literature, which was not then part of the curriculum offered.

Informatively butt anally yours,

N Joy


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ignant666
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29/01/2020 2:40 pm  

This statement about AC changing his field of study "[w]ith approval from his personal tutor" is incorrect, according to the Hag (and Sutin and Kaczynski; i don't have the Booth or Churton bios cited).

His tutor could not have done allowed him to formally study towards a degree in English literature. This was institutionally impossible- there simply was no way to pursue the formal study of English literature at Cambridge at that time.

What actually happened is that his tutor agreed to let him ignore his formal studies, and do the bare minimum needed to get by, so that he could spend his time on what he really cared about: reading poetry, and writing it.

After his first class in the university, a lecture on political economy, disgusted because the professor said that reliable data were hard to come by, "I closed my notebook and never attended another lecture [...] My tutor naturally called me to account [...] He accepted my plea that my business in life was to study English literature [...] He knew only too well that the university curriculum offered no opportunities [to do this] He knew, too, that my school knowledge was amply sufficient to get me through the university examinations without doing any work for them. In fact, during my three years i only did one day's work for the university [emphasis added] and that consisted in employing a boy to read through a translation of a Greek play while i followed it in the text. I got either a first or a second class in every subject [Hag, pp. 108-9; actually, according to Sutin (p. 36), "he always earned a respectable 'second class,' but for one 'first class' showing in the Easter term of 1897."]

As to leaving without a degree, AC says "I had no intention of becoming a parson or a schoolmaster; to write BA after my name would have been a decided waste of ink. [...] A baccalaureate would not assist me noticeably in the Himalayas or the Sahara. As to my literary career, academic distinction would have been a positive disgrace. And with regard to my spiritual life [...] the approbation of the faculty was beneath troubling to despise." [pp. 166-7].


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dom
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29/01/2020 3:18 pm  

However maybe he just didn't want to take the final test leaving his oversized ego vulnerable to judgement.  

I think in MITAP he signs himself off as A.C. of Trinity College Cambridge.  

I guess the university would still have a record of what he actually studied.


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Shiva
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29/01/2020 6:02 pm  
Posted by: @dom

Are you joking?  

No. He wrote those exact words, or very close to them.

 


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Jamie J Barter
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29/01/2020 11:28 pm  
Posted by: @ignant666

This statement about AC changing his field of study {to English Literature}"[w]ith approval from his personal tutor" is incorrect,

Thanks ignant, for providing some valuable in-depth clarity on this aspect here, showing once again that Wiki doesn't always provide the right answers after all.

At least as far back as his undergraduate years at Cambridge, we have the advantage of hindsight in knowing what the ultimate fate of a personality like Crowley would be, who would have come across as something of an enfant terrible to most of his contemporaries (similarly with Orson Welles in retrospect, too).  Fast forward fifty years, and we have AC in not one of his more positive moods bemoaning being "such an ass" having wasted so much of his life and so many opportunities - although significantly he never went into detail which aspects might actually have been wasted or how (t)his time might have been more productively employed.  Maybe blowing his inherited fortune from the family Ales so early on in view of how much impecunity inconvenienced him later might have been one among his regrets; but then again, possibly not.

Ponderingaciously yours,

N Joy


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Jamie J Barter
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30/01/2020 1:58 am  

English Literature degree

Looking into the matter further, it appears that the English faculty at Cambridge University was only founded in 1919, over twenty years after Crowley had departed its hallowed groves for good.  Even if it had been established whilst he was in attendance, in view of the preceeding facts it seems doubtful whether it would have changed his decision not to have bothered with sitting any finals in that subject, however.

I've got a recollection from somewhere that AC hopefully approached the Master/Dean of Trinity College (his alma mater there) trading on his position as an alumnus and asking for his support in connection with either (I think) his 1930 "banned [Gilles deRais] lecture" at Oxford or the "Looking Glass Trial" a couple of decades earlier, in the form of some sort of character witness testimonial...  I don't at the moment have the opportunity to research it more closely, but it seems he wasn't above attempting to use his "qualifications" as an 'old boy' (even if not as an actual graduate) when it suited to curry favour - without an success in the matter as he was then sent packing with the proverbial flea in his ear, unfortunately for him.

N Joy

 

 

 

 


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