Home Forums Aleister Crowley Biography Colin Wilson’s “Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast”

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  • #102612

    dom
    Participant

    Colin Wilson’s “Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast“. A document of a well balanced perspective or a prejudiced and opinionated critique by an ignoramus?

    #102614

    Michael Staley
    Participant

    Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

    I don’t particularly care for the book, but Colin Wilson certainly wasn’t an “ignoramus”.

    #102615

    dom
    Participant

    Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

    You can explain this bizarre act of slander if you want. Is this your way of insinuating that Wilson defamed Crowley?

    Confused.

    I don’t particularly care for the book

    Why not?

    #102616

    Michael Staley
    Participant

    @dom

    I’m sorry for my inappropriate use of language, dom. I thought “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” was a well-known rhetorical phrase in response to what was seen as a loaded question. On reflection, the polarity between “well balanced perspective” and “a prejudiced and opinionated critique by an ignoramus” is not one which merits that particular rhetorical device I employed, so consider it withdrawn, with my apologies for the offence caused.

    Colin Wilson is a favourite writer of mine, but when it came to Crowley I think he let himself down. For some reason he often compared Crowley with Gurdjieff, the former always coming off worst of course since Wilson always seemed to evaluate most things in terms of “faculty X’.

    #102618

    dom
    Participant

    I’m sorry for my inappropriate use of language, dom. I thought “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” was a well-known rhetorical phrase in response to what was seen as a loaded question. On reflection, the polarity between “well balanced perspective” and “a prejudiced and opinionated critique by an ignoramus” is not one which merits that particular rhetorical device I employed, so consider it withdrawn, with my apologies for the offence caused.

    Apology accepted Michael.

    Colin Wilson is a favourite writer of mine, but when it came to Crowley I think he let himself down. For some reason he often compared Crowley with Gurdjieff, the former always coming off worst of course since Wilson always seemed to evaluate most things in terms of “faculty X’.

    Yeah Wilson did favour Gurdjieff over Crowley. This surprises me as it shows a lack of objective research on Wilson’s part. There are specific parts of Crowley’s writing where he (AC) echoes Gurdjieff’s concept of “I.s” albeit the “lower I.s”. In fact when Crowley commented on “smite the people” in Legis, he is addressing this concept directly.

    Wilson’s faculty X just sounds like a species of “Buddhist” trance which is again incorporated by Crowley’s system. Perhaps faculty X is an intentional dumbing down of the process involved in those practices.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 1 day ago by  dom.
    #102620

    Jamie J Barter
    Participant

    the polarity between “well balanced perspective” and “a prejudiced and opinionated critique by an ignoramus”
    It’s not a clear polarity here because the addition of “by an ignoramus” is a redundant element to it; so that there are in fact three aspects to consider.  So let’s dismiss this third one first — I don’t think Wilson is an ignoramus at all, he’s clearly a very educated and intelligent man who may be misguided in certain respects but nothing whatsoever to the unwarranted extent that would have justified this particular epithet.

    Next — his surprisingly and disappointingly poor, if not actually wretched, The Nature of The Beast does not come from a well balanced perspective at all, therefore by definition it can’t help being prejudiced, against Crowley.  Exactly like Symonds, he is not interested in giving him an even break and deals him a low hand from the off by selective quoting.  Just why that is so (and why he seemed to by far preferred Gurdjieff over him) given his otherwise high degree of intelligence, is altogether more curious, and doubtless this unbalanced reaction of his relates to something which happened during the course of his past experience, possibly even his childhood. 

    I also agree that Colin Wilson is a good writer, but I’m one of those who don’t think he ever excelled the brilliance of his very first work The Outsider.  Another contribution of his of considerable interest, though, were the two 70s pieces of “weird fiction” (the novels The Philosopher’s Stone and The Mind Parasites) which he wrote as his own particular contribution to H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos”, and which were also arguably the spur and the catalyst to the Necronomicon-related output of later in the decade, and which was also then enthusiastically taken up afterwards by Kenneth Grant amongst others.

    And as for his critique being “opinionated”?  Well everyone with a functioning brain has one of those.

    So, david/dom – you’re always very fond of throwing questions out without giving any sort of an answer first yourself – what do you think of “The Nature of the Beast” then ? You have read it through, of course?! (not necessarily a couple of hundred times though 🙂 )

    Postscript, having just read your most recent:

    when Crowley commented on “smite the people” in Legis, he is addressing this concept directly.
    Aren’t you mixing this up with what “Aiwass”, not Crowley, was addressing in Liber Legis? What is it that you mean here?

    Norma N Joy Conquest

    #102627

    dom
    Participant

    So, david/dom – you’re always very fond of throwing questions out without giving any sort of an answer first yourself – what do you think of “The Nature of the Beast” then ? You have read it through, of course?! (not necessarily a couple of hundred times though )

    Read it when it first came out years ago and thought it was informative, really good. I’ve reordered it. Wilson’s book on Steiner was good too as was his Mysteries and The Occult. Really good gift books for teenagers imo. The God of the labyrinth is a brilliant novel.

    Postscript, having just read your most recent:
    when Crowley commented on “smite the people” in Legis, he is addressing this concept directly.
    Aren’t you mixing this up with what “Aiwass”, not Crowley, was addressing in Liber Legis? What is it that you mean here?

    The new comment. Go forth and check it out. Chapter 3.

    #102629

    Jamie J Barter
    Participant

    Postscript, having just read your most recent:
    when Crowley commented on “smite the people” in Legis, he is addressing this concept directly.
    Aren’t you mixing this up with what “Aiwass”, not Crowley, was addressing in Liber Legis? What is it that you mean here?
    The new comment. Go forth and check it out. Chapter 3.

    Ah. “Gotcha”, there(!) Thanks for clearing that one up (although I have to say I still didn’t/ don’t get the connection about the “concept of “I.s” albeit the “lower I.s”.” …).

    Read it when it first came out years ago and thought it was informative, really good. I’ve reordered it.
    Yes, but what I was getting at was more (for example), what did you think of Wilson’s analysis and treatment of Crowley, the man and his work? How fair did you rate his assessment? Did he make any particular large fundamental error(s), and if so what do you consider them to have been? What was the major strength of the book, and its main weakness? Do you consider it suitable enough to perhaps be given as a gift to somebody? (Etc, etc.)

    Yours in critiquely fashion,
    N Joy

    #102632

    dom
    Participant


    Ah. “Gotcha”, there(!) Thanks for clearing that one up (although I have to say I still didn’t/ don’t get the connection about the “concept of “I.s” albeit the “lower I.s”.” …).

    Gurdjieff distinguished between “essence” and “personality”. From http://bepresentfirst.com/essence-personality/ where a good summation is presented;

    Personality is a collection of opinions, instinctive habits, education, negative emotions, and habitual postures and movements. It is in a sense all our programming. It is what we were taught to think and feel, not what we would necessarily think and feel if essence had been left to develop without the intrusions of personality. Essence is what we were born with, our talents, our limitations, and our natural preferences and aversions. Nothing in personality is hardwired; everything in essence is hardwired. In a perfect world preferences in personality would reflect preferences in essence. But our world is far from perfect.

    Compare that with AC’s New Comment re 3:8: “With it ye shall smite the peoples; and none shall stand before you.”
    The Old Comment
    8. Ye shall easily suppress invading thoughts.

    I take it that AL 2:25 Ye are against the people, O my chosen! deals with the same issue, as AC says about this verse in The New Comment;

    ……..Still deeper, there is a meaning in this verse applicable to the process of personal initiation. By “the people” we may understand the many-headed and mutable mob which swarms in the slums of our own minds. Most men are almost entirely at the mercy of a mass of loud and violent emotions, without discipline or even organization. They sway with the mood of the moment. They lack purpose, foresight, and intelligence. They are moved by ignorant and irrational instincts, many of which affront the law of self-preservation itself, with suicidal stupidity. The moral Idea which we call “the people” is the natural enemy of good government. He who is ‘chosen’ by Hadit to Kingship must consequently be ‘against the people’ if he is to pursue any consistent policy…….. he must impose absolute silence upon them, as may be done by the “Yoga” practices taught in Book 4 (Part I) Liber XVI, etc. He is then ready to analyse them, to organize them, to drill them, and so to take advantage of the properties peculiar to each one by employing its energies in the service of his imperial purpose.

    In other words AC is describing the same thing as Gurdjieff when he presented the idea of “personality” which is basically plural and not singular. Our degraded I’s driven by “loud and violent emotions” are a legion changing and “sway(ing) with the mood of the moment”.

    This is echoed in his Notes for an Astral Atlas;

    Verily and Amen! Let not the Magician forget for a single second what is his one sole business. His uninitiated “self” (as he absurdly thinks it) is a mob of wild women, hysterical from uncomprehended and unstated animal instinct; they will tear Pentheus, the merely human king who presumes to repress them, into mere shreds of flesh; his own mother, Nature, the first to claw at his windpipe! None but Bacchus, the Holy Guardian Angel, hath grace to be God to this riot of maniacs; he alone can transform the disorderly rabble into a pageant of harmonious movements, tune their hyaena howls to the symphony of a paean, and their reasonless rage to self-controlled rapture

    I think that L Rom Hubbard picked up on these concepts in his sci-fi idea about humans being possessed by many ancient alien souls that need to be “cleared”.

    JamieBarter said

    Yes, but what I was getting at was more (for example), what did you think of Wilson’s analysis and treatment of Crowley, the man and his work? How fair did you rate his assessment? Did he make any particular large fundamental error(s), and if so what do you consider them to have been? What was the major strength of the book, and its main weakness? Do you consider it suitable enough to perhaps be given as a gift to somebody? (Etc, etc.)

    I need to reread it.

    There are some parts that I recall. He did say that AC’s sexually repressed upbringing gave him an uncool unbalanced view of sex. AC he claimed had a self-imposed “devilish” view of sex and this dogged him for his entire life. He also said that AC was “shattered” when his 19 year old girlfriend left him. I also recall that he said that AC carved the words “ARSE” and “CUNT” into a courthouse table. Wilson discusses voodoo in Brazil and gives some sort of account of a Brazilian woman experiencing metaphysical manifestation of a ring in her knickers. Frankly, a ring could get attached to a pair of knickers so i’m surprised at Wilson’s apparent gullibility there. Furthermore I’m not even so sure about the reliability of his source…..psychotic hallucination or not.

    All in all I didn’t find that Wilson was never really sneering about Crowley. I know in his The Occult Wilson was fond of saying that AC is a typical example of someone failing to follow the great part of himself. He used a quote from Mencius “Those who follow the great part of themselves become great; those who follow the small part become small”

    • This reply was modified 1 week ago by  dom.
    • This reply was modified 1 week ago by  dom.
    #102638

    Shiva
    Participant

    Jamie, I had the same bewilderment regarding “l.s,” which seems to be lower self, or personality, but I’m not sure. One always needs to realize that some posters are deliberately or unconsciously obscure at times.

    • This reply was modified 6 days, 10 hours ago by  Shiva. Reason: spelling
    #102642

    Jamie J Barter
    Participant

    Thanks for the further clarification regarding the “smiting the peoples” aspect etc., david/dom (which name do you prefer incidentally — is either of the two actually your ‘real’ one?  Does ‘dom’ represent the more mature, not so ‘youthful’ as david, middle-aged persona ?)

    I think that L Rom Hubbard picked up on these concepts in his sci-fi idea about humans being possessed by many ancient alien souls that need to be “cleared”.
    I am sure though that Elron had no intention of referring to sub-personalities or untamed thoughts within the psyche of the individual here, so much as an “infestation” by actual external extra-terrestrials (“thetans” I believe was the word used to describe them?) many millions of years before (homo sapiens came to exist).  So what’s your correlation?
    Your description of “his sci-fi idea” is spot-on, fitting in as it does with Hubbard’s early speculations about founding a science-fiction religion for the masses, which as we all know turned out to be wildly successful.

    I need to reread it.
    Yes. Maybe you should!? I therefore look forward to perusing a fuller review of its contents once you have found time to do so, despite having perhaps prematurely set this thread in motion (I would say “I can’t wait” for it, but that phrase is one of my pet hates, as you’d bloody well have to wait, whether you like it or not.)
     
    Jamie, I had the same bewilderment regarding “l.s,” which seems to be lower self, or personality, but I’m not sure. One always needs to that some posters are deliberately or unconsciously obscure at times.
    Yes, that was what I couldn’t understand or “didn’t get” myself, and by a process of elimination thought l.s. might stand for “lower self” too (it also occurred it might just stand for the “legion” of I’s, as in a multiplicity of the first person pronoun), and was why I was hoping for clarification.  However it looks like we may not (ever?) find out for sure, as the mystery of what was actually meant at the time looks like persisting for at least a while longer…

    И ∫ºλ

    #102652

    dom
    Participant

    Yes, that was what I couldn’t understand or “didn’t get” myself, and by a process of elimination thought l.s. might stand for “lower self” too (it also occurred it might just stand for the “legion” of I’s, as in a multiplicity of the first person pronoun), and was why I was hoping for clarification.  However it looks like we may not (ever?) find out for sure, as the mystery of what was actually meant at the time looks like persisting for at least a while longer…

    I suggest rereading what I wrote then you wouldn’t have to wait.

    Jamie, I had the same bewilderment regarding “l.s,” which seems to be lower self, or personality, but I’m not sure. One always needs to realize that some posters are deliberately or unconsciously obscure at times

    Is it too much effort to go and google Gurdjieff at least?

    • This reply was modified 5 days, 2 hours ago by  dom.
    • This reply was modified 5 days, 2 hours ago by  dom.
    #102655

    Michael Staley
    Participant

    @dom

    In other words AC is describing the same thing as Gurdjieff when he presented the idea of “personality” which is basically plural and not singular. Our degraded I’s driven by “loud and violent emotions” are a legion changing and “sway(ing) with the mood of the moment”.

    In my opinion there are clear affinities, but Crowley is not describing quite the same thing. In the passage you quoted from the commentaries, Crowley is talking about, if you like, focus. That self-discipline, that will, still comes from personality.

    Gurdjieff’s approach seems to me different. He would direct his pupils to perform menial tasks, but with attention, without slipping into the fug of dreaming, memory, reflection, habit-patterns etc in which we are habitually immersed during our “waking” hours; in other words, to wake up from dreaming. One of the best books I have read on the subject of Gurdjieff is by Coilin Wilson, The War Against Sleep.

    Again in my opinion, Crowley’s work has a similar goal, ultimately to wake up from the dream of individual existence; this is the realisation of True Will which is universal, and refracted or expressed through the apparent individual.

    Wilson’s faculty X just sounds like a species of “Buddhist” trance which is again incorporated by Crowley’s system. Perhaps faculty X is an intentional dumbing down of the process involved in those practices.

    I don’t think this is true at all. “Faculty X” seems to be a moment of optimism and joy. A good example is the story of Nietzsche outside on I think a mountainside when a storm was raging, and the wild exhilaration he got from it. Wilson’s book New Pathways in Psychology draws an analogy with Maslow’s term “Peak Experience”.

    #102656

    Shiva
    Participant

    Dom: Is it too much effort to go and google Gurdjieff at least?

    Yes, it is (too much effort).

    Is it too much effort to make a self-contained post without requiring readers to consult the BorG (the G stands for Google)?

    • This reply was modified 4 days, 12 hours ago by  Shiva.
    #102658

    belmurru
    Participant

    Colin Wilson had some good insights. The best, I believe, is that he was the first to propose that the Stockholm experience was losing his homosexual virginity. The relevant pages in Colin Wilson’s book The Nature of the Beast, are 36 to 38 in the 1987 edition.

    Wilson’s method of analysis was very good, especially given that previous biographers, with the same available sources, had not yet made the connections (I mean Symonds, Regardie, King, and Roberts). Wilson’s deduction was through a close reading of Crowley’s phrasing, and then comparing it with his recounting of how he described his sexual encounter with a parlour maid ‘”on my mother’s very bed!”, as a “magical affirmation of my revolt” (Confessions, pp. 79-80), shows how much thought he had given to Crowley’s obscure hints. The first serious research on Crowley’s homosexual awakening, and his relationship with H. C. J. Pollitt, were begun by Martin Starr in the 1980s. He promised us an edition of Not the Life and Adventures of Sir Roger Bloxam (written in 1916-1917) in his introduction to The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz (i.e. the “Bagh-i-Muattar”), in the Teitan Press facsimile of 1991 (p. 7, note 7), but this has not seen the light of day.

    Crowley names his partner that New Year’s Eve as James L. Dickson in Sir Roger Bloxam, chapters 21 and 22. Churton mentions him on page 29 as well, and gives the full name in the endnote, page 432, note 7 to chapter 3, as James Lachlan Dickson, attributing the discovery of his profession as a cotton spinner’s agent to William Breeze.

    Full Wilson quotation:

    “He decided to enter the diplomatic service because ‘it seemed to afford the greatest opportunities for worldly enjoyment.’ The court that appealed to him most was that of Imperial Russia, and he went to St Petersburg in the long vacation of 1897. It was on his way back from Russia that he attended a chess congress in Berlin, and suddenly decided that he no longer wanted to be world champion. Wathcing these shabby nonentities ‘I perceived with preternatural lucidity that I had not alighted on this planet with the object of playing chess.’

    “But what had he alighted on it for? On the last day of the previous year, he had had a strange mystical experience in Stockholm that seemed to give him a glimpse of his way forward:

    I was awakened to the knowledge that I possessed a magical means of becoming conscious of and satisfying a part of my nature which had up to that moment concealed itself from me. It was an experience of horror and pain, combined with a certain ghostly terror, yet at the same time it was the key to the purest and holiest spiritual ecstasy that exists. At the time, I was not aware of the supreme importance of the matter. It seemed to me little more than a development of certain magical processes with which I was already familiar.

    “It is obvious that Crowley is quite determined to speak in riddles. In The Great Beast, Symonds suggests that ‘he had an illumination that he could control reality by magical thinking.’ If so, why did he not say so? When Crowley is reticent in the Confessions, it is usually on account of the censor (for example, he fails to mention that he left Tonbridge school because he caught gonorrhoea). Moreover, the comment that it seemed to be a ‘development of certain magical processes already known to me’ also seems to afford a clue, for in 1896, when he was only twenty-one, Crowley still knew nothing about magic – that only came about two years later, when he met an alchemist called Julian Baker. The only ‘magic’ he refers to in the Confessions before that date is sex magic, as, for example, when he says that he made his ‘magical affirmation’ with the parlour maid on his mother’s bed. We should also take note of the words ‘I possessed a magical means of becoming conscious of and satisfying a part of my nature which had up to that moment concealed itself from me.’ What part of his nature had so far concealed itself from him? The obvious answer is surely: his homosexuality. So far, Crowley’s sexuality had been, as he never tires of emphasising, completely normal – so that he remarks about his early period at Cambridge: ‘My skill in avoiding corporal punishment and my lack of opportunity for inflicting it had saved me from developing the sadistic and masochistic sides to my character.’ It therefore seems probable that the revelation that came to Crowley in Stockholm was of his homosexual tendencies, or perhaps his inherent masochism and the possibility of satisfying it by becoming the passive partner in acts of sodomy.

    “Symonds’ mistake probably arises from the fact that Crowley says that the revelation took place at midnight on 31 December 1896, and that he was ‘awakened’ to the magical knowledge; it sounds as if Crowley woke up from sleep. But 31 December is New Year’s Eve, and it is more likely that Crowley was enjoying the New Year’s Eve celebrations when some homosexual encounter made him aware of this element in his own nature.”

    Wilson, Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast , (Aquarian Press, 1987) pp. 36-38

    A bibliography for further reading –

    1. “He who seduced me first”; unpublished poem from a manuscript “About 1898 or earlier” (Crowley’s note), quoted by Kaczynski in Perdurabo (2010), p. 37
    2. “At Stockholm” and “To J.L.D.”, in White Stains (1898), pp. 41, 66
    3. Not the Life and Adventures of Sir Roger Bloxam (1916-1917), chapters 19-23 (specifically 21-22)
    4. Περὶ της Παιδεραστεὶας, in The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz (the “Bagh-i-Muattar”) (1910/1991 (facsimile)), pp. 21-34
    5. Lawrence Sutin, Do What Thou Wilt (2002), pp. 38-43
    6. Richard Kaczynski, Perdurabo (2010), pp. 36-40
    7. Tobias Churton, Aleister Crowley, The Biography (2011), pp. 29-30; 33-35

    • This reply was modified 4 days, 12 hours ago by  belmurru. Reason: italics
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