Kenneth Anger: Where The Bodies Are Buried
Kenneth Anger: Where The Bodies Are Buried
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Feel I have more than enough of this.
You'll forgive me, I'm sure, if I note that this is a bizarre comment to make on a web site dedicated to the life and legacy of Aleister Crowley, given the content of the fascinating article in Esquire?
Crowley gained public notoriety in the Twenties when, with a small coterie of disciples, he established the “Abbey of Thelema” in a farmhouse in Cefalu, Sicily, energetically practicing ritual and sex magick, until deported by Mussolini. The British yellow press condemned him as “the wickedest man in the world”. Anger would have it he was one of the most misunderstood.
“That’s part of his aura, his halo,” Anger laughs. “His attitude towards sex being sacred and having mystic qualities, it’s not surprising he should have been controversial.” Crowley, he says approvingly, “was really like a diabolical little boy.”
Anger’s family were Presbyterian, but he rejected Christianity at the age of eight, when his parents tried to make him go to Sunday school. It was not an ideological position: “I just told them I wanted to read the Sunday funny papers.”
As a teenager, he had become interested in the occult through books such as Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough. He was introduced to Crowley’s teachings by one Marjorie Cameron, the only woman he’s ever known he says was “without any doubt” a genuine witch: “In a good sense. She had what you’d call ‘powers’.” Cameron was the widow of Jack Parsons, a pioneer in developing the rocket fuel that would take man to the Moon (he has a crater there named after him in recognition). He was also an occultist and leader of the US lodge of Crowley’s magical order Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).
In 1946, Parsons and Cameron practiced a magic ritual known as the “Babalon Working” to conceive a “moonchild” as the Thelemic “messiah”.
The “scribe” for this ceremony was a man Parsons had met only a few months earlier, but who – so Parsons told Crowley – displayed distinctly promising occult possibilities. He was a science-fiction writer named L Ron Hubbard. The Babalon Working failed: Cameron did not conceive. Hubbard ran off with Parsons’ former mistress, a substantial amount of Parsons’ money and a yacht both men owned in a business arrangement.
The official Scientology version of Hubbard’s occult activities is he was working undercover to expose and destroy a “black magic cult”. But Hubbard, Anger says, was “a pathological liar, you can’t believe anything he said”. What Hubbard took from meeting Parsons, Anger says, was the blueprint of a hermetic brotherhood in which the acquisition of one layer of knowledge leads to the next. “The difference is, Scientology makes everybody pay. Hubbard told Parsons that inventing a religion was a good way to make money. But Scientology is a cult. The whole thing is what I call a racket.”
In 1952, Parsons was killed when fulminate of mercury exploded in his home laboratory. “There are various theories about whether he was responsible, or someone else did it,” Anger says. “Howard Hughes wanted Jack to go and work for him but Jack refused. And Howard Hughes was the kind of man you didn’t say no to, or if you did, there would be consequences.”
Following Parsons’ death, Anger lived with Cameron for two years, intensifying his study of Crowleyian magick. Anger describes his beliefs as “paganism” which, he says, “is just an appreciation of nature. It has nothing to do with so-called ‘black magic’”. For many years he has been a member of the OTO, but is reticent about his own “magickal” practices: the OTO, he points out, is after all a secret society. He is not, he says, “doing magic circles all the time, although I have done it on occasion”. But he follows Crowley’s practice of “Liber Resh”, a ritual meditation for greeting the sunrise. He affects a cheery wave: “Hello sun!”
For a while in the Fifties, Anger lived in Crowley’s former home Boleskine on the shores of Loch Ness. (When Crowley first moved there, he complained to the local council about the “prostitute problem” in the area.
A mystified official was dispatched to investigate and reported there were no prostitutes. “That,” Crowley replied, “is the problem...”)
In 1955, Anger and Alfred Kinsey visited Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema in Sicily. In the years since Crowley’s eviction, the farmhouse had fallen into a state of near dereliction. “It was owned by two brothers who hated each other. One was a communist and one was a fascist, so I had to pay an exorbitant amount of money to each to get access to the place.”
Local peasants, fearing a revival of Crowleyism, greeted them with a traditional curse – a mutilated cat on the doorstep. Anger spent a summer removing the whitewash that had been slapped over the erotic images Crowley painted on the walls, filming and photographing them. “There was a door to the kitchen, about 8ft tall, and on that he’d painted the image of the Scarlet Woman, nude, rather outrageously holding a golden phallus, and a cake – the Cake of Light – which was like his Eucharist. I photographed that.” Anger sighs.
“I wish I’d taken it [away] but it was just too complicated.”
There was, he says, “a distinct presence” about the place. “There were unexplained rattlings on the tiled roof as if someone was running back and forth on it. And on one occasion, my light just turned over and crashed. Just little things. I don’t need to be convinced, because I saw them. These things happen.”
The ruined “abbey” is still there, but the spectre of Crowley has been diminished by a new sports stadium that has been constructed behind it. Anger sighs, “It ruins the whole atmosphere.”
Speaking for myself alone, I'm grateful to ptoner for his post.
Owner and Editor
It's rather incredibly fair and accurate about Crowley, apart from the fudged details about Crowley's "no prostitutes" joke, which presumably is because Anger didn't recall all the details. Fascinating article.
Yes this is a rather interesting and quite well-written piece, and it contained at least one more new piece of information for me, in that I was never aware of this "connection" before -
“Howard Hughes wanted Jack to go and work for him but Jack refused. And Howard Hughes was the kind of man you didn’t say no to, or if you did, there would be consequences.”
I don’t like the sound of that ‘consequences’!... Does anyone know of any information anywhere which goes into this matter further?
For many years he has been a member of the OTO, but is reticent about his own “magickal” practices: the OTO, he points out, is after all a secret society.
Not that secret! (Unnecessarily) SecretIVE sometimes, definitely!
He is not, he says, “doing magic circles all the time, although I have done it on occasion”. But he follows Crowley’s practice of “Liber Resh”, a ritual meditation for greeting the sunrise. He affects a cheery wave: “Hello sun!”
Not quite the accepted practice for Resh! But still, dwtw…
For a while in the Fifties, Anger lived in Crowley’s former home Boleskine on the shores of Loch Ness.
Did he live there in the 1950s, anyone? Again this is news to me! If so, for how long when?
When Crowley first moved there, he complained to the local council about the “prostitute problem” in the area.
I don’t think it was the local council gov – wasn’t it something to do with some society for the suppression of vice?
Local peasants, fearing a revival of Crowleyism, greeted them with a traditional curse – a mutilated cat on the doorstep.
But I always understood A.C. & the Thelemite community were all generally pretty well received by the “local peasantry”, and had 'fond memories' of his time there?
Norma N Joy Conquest
Feel I have more than enough of this.
This thread follows in quite quick succession to another similar one; could they not be merged?
Michael, they are totally separate events.
The one you link being a public talk in video format, the latest being a personal, one to one interview, for a mens glossy magazine.
Completely separate in my opinion and very different timescales. Like adding a book release about Crowley with a image of Crowley.
PS just ignore the post then if it bothers you so much.
In reviewing my archive, I found Parsons biographical notes written by former JPL Oral Historian John Bluth, PhD. (Deceased) this paragraph exists:
"From 1946 until 1948 Parsons worked for North American Aviation, Inglewood California as a laboratory worker. In 1948 he considered the possibilities for technical employment in the new state of Israel. In May of 1949 he began work for Hughes Aircraft Company as a group leader in charge of propellants in the propulsion and launching group, Research and Development Laboratories. To further his application for employment in Israel, on September 15, 1950 Parsons removed seventeen classified Classified documents from Hughes Aircraft Company, Culver City where he worked; these included a portion of a Hughes rocket-loading plant proposal. parsons planned to use the documents to prepare a proposal to the American Technion Society (an Israeli recruiting organization) to build an explosives plant for Israel. An FBI investigation into possible espionage by Parsons ensued. After a detailed investigation, the Assistant US Attorney General for Los Angeles about May 17, 1951 declined prosecution of Parsons; there was insufficient evidence of Parsons' intent to injure the United .states or to give an advantage to a foreign nation."
So the fact that Parsons broke the trust given to him by Hughes Aircraft Company, though not necessarily Hughes himself (I don't know how far gone he was in 1948); is more likely the genesis of the idea that Hughes wanted him 'finished'. He was after that in any case. He lost all security clearance.
Anyway, the article surprised me in that there was no mention of...
Sorry, but I can't let this one go. Aside from the obvious fact that the writer is down on all fours for Kenneth, and has not fact checked, doesn't astonish me, and this article almost reads like an obituary, because it doesn't mention more of the current workings of Heir Anger; but dwells so much on the past.
Anyway, my understanding is that Elliot Smith wrote his song ROSE PARADE, in relation to the Rose
Festival in Oregon, not the one in Pasadena, as Kenneth maintains. Aside from the fact that it is one of my FAVORITE songs, I would like the record to be set straight.
Can anyone confirm or deny the origin of Rose Parade?
Also, Kenneth was known to steal flowers from the Elliot Smith Memorial in Silver Lake.
Thanks Magickal. If the only reference appears to be (so far) from a Jet Propulsion Lab “Oral Historian” (I didn't know they had such a thing!), the Hughes incident does not seem to be very well known. I cannot recall noticing it in any of the usual bios, etc.
I can understand H.H. being pissed off if Jack didn't want to join his exclusive little club, but did that mean he really want him “finished”, i.e. mortally terminated with extreme prejudice - i.e. further, blown up - as opposed to “merely” losing his security clearance & along with it his job and livelihood, though?
It's fiction. Howard Hughes was a mess in 1948.
OK, fine there! But would the claim that K.A. also “lived” at Boleskine at some time in the 1950s be fiction as well, would anyone know? In which case the "accuracy" reading on this article may be taking a bit of a beating...