Home Forums Aleister Crowley Biography Could Crowley speak any foreign languages?

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    Could Crowley speak any foreign languages?



    Other than being fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Russian, German, Spanish, and Italian, and a working knowledge of Enochian, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, and Hindi, no.


    William Thirteen

    Crowley was not fluent in German but had a basic comprehension of the language.

    In my adolescence I studied German with some thoroughness. I could read most classical authors and books on such subjects as philosophy, chemistry, alpinism and chess. But I could only make out newspapers with a good deal of aid from the dictionary and though I could converse fluently on simple subjects with casual strangers, I could never call myself a German scholar.

    I had little occasion for the language since 1902 and forgot much of what I knew. In 1925, I could understand German only when spoken clearly and slowly with special consideration for the state of my knowledge and an occasional recourse to paraphrase. I could, however, follow the merits of German composition especially in the case of translations of my own work where I already knew the meaning.



    Other than being fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Russian, German, Spanish, and Italian, and a working knowledge of Enochian, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, and Hindi

    Fluent in these languages?

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 2 weeks ago by  dom.
    • This reply was modified 10 months, 2 weeks ago by  dom.


    D: Fluent in these languages?

    That’s exactly what Ig wrote. Say, you’re not hard of reading, are you?



    AC traveled to Russia in 1897 to learn Russian as the “fourth language” he would have to pass examinations in, when he hoped to join the Diplomatic Corps. He said he had forgotten most of it by the time of the Ragged Rag-Time Girls trip in 1913.

    Presumably the other three languages were Latin, French, and German. He decided against Spanish and Italian because they were too popular. He learned Latin, Greek, French, and German in school. He lived in Paris and Berlin, and wrote some poetry in French.

    He was a participant in the Spanish Carlist milieu, and spent time in Mexico. He lived in Italy.

    He was a well-educated person who traveled a lot, and lived outside his native country for much of his life; of course he spoke more than one language.



    Yeah that makes perfect sense thanks.

    I hear that Russian is the most difficult language to learn..



    He also learned enough Hindustani to be useful during the K2 expedition in 1902. Details at:

    He apparently kept it up. At some point in the period 1902-1905, he composed some poetry in Urdu, according to Martin Starr. See near the end of this post:

    From my post –

    “It is clear that biographers should take his efforts to have learned the language, beginning in Calcutta, more seriously. He certainly had an opportunity to use it again, in 1905. Martin Starr notes (Scented Garden, p. 7 note 9) that the manuscript of the book (begun in 1905, after Kanchenjunga), at the Harry Ransom Research Center, U of T Austin, “includes some poetry in Urdu of surprising excellence, according to Associate Professor C. M. Naim of the University of Chicago, who kindly provided a translation.”

    I would assume that this Urdu was closely related to, if not the same, as the language he began learning in Calcutta (the differences are apparently small and dialectical, with the main difference being that Urdu is written in Persian script, Hindi in Devanagri). He really mastered it.”

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 1 week ago by  belmurru.


    Thankyou belmurru. I can see how languages were one of Crowley’s major preoccupations and talents.



    It would be so funny if “4 6 3 8 A B K 2 4 A L G M O R 3 Y X 24 89 R P S T O V A L. What meaneth this, o prophet? …” in The Book of the Law II:76, could be easily solved with Hindustani or Urdu.


    Jamie J Barter

    I have a memory of someone in the pub during the lunchtime recession at one of the Oxford Thelemic Symposiums in the late 80s/ early 90s saying that A.C. had acquired a working knowledge of Esperanto, but have never been able to find any more information on this to back it up. Nor do I recall the gentleman in question’s name to possibly be able to ask him for further details on the matter, but it has always nonetheless intrigued me. Does anybody else know anything? Or was it perhaps just bullshit after all?

    Norma N Joy Conquest
    (PS Steve Wilson and Gerald Suster were present as well, but they are both now dead. There were two others, one of whom I think may have been Welsh Dafydd.)



    I know that a lot of people claim fluency and workable knowledge on many languages on AC’s behalf, but is there a lot of written and anecdotal evidence that he truly was ‘fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Russian (refuted since he forgot it and was probably never fluent just from learning in school and traveling there once), German (obviously this one has been refuted), Spanish, and Italian, and’ had ‘a working knowledge of Enochian, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, and Hindi?’

    I am most interested in the Latin, Greek, Italian, Arabic, and Chinese claims, as I know these are very hard languages.

    As somewhat of a polyglot myself –

    (I at one point speak/read conversationally fluent Korean, and German, and was at that level in Japanese for a while, and taught myself to read French and now some Portuguese – passed the DOD’s DLPT exam with a score in the upper 90%th percentile (facility for learning languages) and on their DLAB test for Korean I got I believe a 2+ on both reading and listening/speaking which is about an 80% fluency. Of course that was years ago and now I don’t care much for languages except in idle curiosity since I am not using them. I took German for over 10 years in elementary school and college and Korean for about 6 years after living and working/studying in both countries)

    – I take a bit of exception at hearing he was ‘fluent’ in all those languages as I know from experience if you are not using it and learning it for over 5 years you won’t be fluent.

    Plus I heard he basically faked his translation of Tao Te King using Legge’s version and put in his Thelemic ideas, he didn’t translate or read any true Chinese.

    Also I hear his Greek is atrocious in things like the Star Ruby; hardly fluent.

    So if anyone has any backup for the claims I would love to hear. Just interested in languages…somewhat 🙂



    He struggled in applying the quantity of 418 to his version of Aiwass due to a lack of understanding of Hebrew. (Tav without the dogesh is pronounced as “s”).

    Source : Regardie’s “Garden of pomegranates”.

    Not that i’m trying to denigrate his amazing accomplishments but you asked for evidence of fluency or lack of.



    Wow Christibrany I’m impressed .
    Linguistics is considered higher than all the other studies by some .
    One must engage auditory, vocal and psychological comprehension to study it .



    Well Tiger I wish I could apply my ‘genius’ to making more money or having a higher status but you see I don’t TRULY wish it because my true will is to be happy with whatever I am doing. But it is often the mantra of ‘self-made-men’ that they got there by being oh so intelligent. I may or may not be smart, but one thing I have always lacked is motivation in regards to being ‘better.’ if that makes any sense. It was all just fun for me. I like meeting people. Even though I hate humans. The typical dichotomy.

    Anyway time to do my banishings. I welcome any answers to my query.

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