So I find myself on this, the first day of the Year of the Rat, in London. Wondering about the things I have to do, the projects I have taken on and the creations I must bring forth into the world. It is like spring here in the UK – warm and sunny this afternoon with birds singing and enjoying the spots of cloud that wander by overhead.
In preparation for my performance in March I have been studying the works of Aleister Crowley, particularly his Eight Lectures on Yoga. This book is probably his most insightful, speaking radically about things that would be misinterpreted in his writings even now in the occult community. Anyone approaching Crowley’s works should start with Eight Lectures before anything else.
In particular this phrase stands out to me as if it were in bold letters:
“The complete and joyous awakening from the lifelong and unbroken nightmare of physical discomfort is impossible to describe.”
I know that the perception of Crowley as a Satanist and black magician is one he is guilty of having perpetrated himself but having delved into his work again and again since my childhood I am often struck that most don’t see through this charade to the core of his real teaching. He is merely a westerner presenting concepts of the east to the fragile minds of the bourgeois 20th century sycophants that surrounded him (and who he preyed upon for support and entertainment).
But in any serious attempt to understand his work one must draw a distinction between the man and the philosophy. His actions were those of his upbringing, yet his ideas and concepts were often things he himself could not live up to or realize. Such is the weakness of the body when confronted with the strength of the mind.
Too often Crowley is painted as some dark wizard, particularly by the media, in order to add weight to some nonsensical entertainment that attaches itself to his name. (Musicians have been guilty of this more than most.) Yet his radical approach to theater, ritual, mental and physical experimentation, sexuality and identity was far ahead of its time.
He was in essence a man born a century before he should have been. Had he arrived now, in the early part of the 21st century, his ideas would be taken as commonplace and not shocking at all. Who would care about his openly bisexual stance, his practice of yoga and ritual magick, his drug use? (These things are part of everyday life in the entertainment industry.)
I hope in time that the facile shroud of darkness will fall away and reveal Crowley as a man of enlightened cultural perspectives and not focus solely on the hedonistic practices of his daily life. There is much to learn in his work, yet only one who can see past the disguise of the dark magus and disregard the idiocy that surrounds his image will ever understand the work of the “wickedest man in the world.”