Aleister Crowley (12 October 1875–1 December 1947), born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both 'Frater Perdurabo' and 'The Great Beast 666'

"Had! The manifestation of Nuit.
The unveiling of the company of heaven.
Every man and woman is a star.
Every number is infinite; there is no difference.
Help me, o warrior lord of Thebes, in my unveiling before the Children of men!"

Aleister Crowley (12 October 1875–1 December 1947), born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and 'The Great Beast 666', was an English occultist, mystic, ceremonial magician, poet and mountaineer, who was responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema.
In his role as the founder of the Thelemite philosophy, he came to see himself as the prophet who was entrusted with informing humanity that it was entering the new Aeon (Age) of Horus in the early 20th century.


Born into a wealthy upper-class family, as a young man he became an influential member of the esoteric 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn' after befriending the order's leader, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers.
Subsequently he claimed that he was contacted by his True Will, an entity he named Aiwass, while staying in Egypt in 1904, and that he "received" a text known as 'The Book of the Law' from what he claimed was a divine source, and around which he would come to develop his new philosophy of Thelema.
However - later on in life he wrote in 'Equinox of the Gods' that "I now incline to believe that Aiwass is a man as I am", and analysis of the text of the Book of the Law shows that 'Aiwass the Minister' is an anagram of 'I Sin, I was the Master' - which casts doubt on whether the Book was 'dictated' as Crowley claimed.
Recent analysis of the text suggests that the book and its various riddles and ciphers were constructed by Crowley to conceal the 'Lost Word of the Temple of Solomon', which Crowley claimed to have discovered after studying the 'Zohar' and Freemasonry.

The זֹהַר‎‎ (Zohar - Hebrew: lit Splendor or Radiance) is the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah. It is a group of books including commentary on the mystical aspects of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and scriptural interpretations as well as material on Mysticism, mythical cosmogony, and mystical psychology. The Zohar contains a discussion of the nature of God, the origin and structure of the universe, the nature of souls, redemption, the relationship of Ego to Darkness and "true self" to "The Light of God," and the relationship between the "universal energy" and man. Its scriptural exegesis can be considered an esoteric form of the Rabbinic literature known as Midrash, which elaborates on the Torah. The Zohar is mostly written in what has been described as an exalted, eccentric style of Aramaic, which was the day-to-day language of Israel in the Second Temple period (539 BCE – 70 CE), was the original language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and is the main language of the Talmud.

He would go on to found his own occult society, the A∴A∴ and eventually rose to become a leader of Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), before founding a religious commune in Cefalù known as the Abbey of Thelema, which he led from 1920 through till 1923. After abandoning the Abbey amid widespread opposition, Crowley returned to Britain, where he continued to promote Thelema until his death.
Crowley has remained an influential figure and is widely thought of as the most influential occultist of all time.

Childhood: 1875–1894

Aleister was born as Edward Alexander Crowley at 30 Clarendon Square in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England, between 11 pm and midnight on 12 October 1875.
His father, Edward Crowley (c.1830–1887), was trained as an engineer but, according to Aleister, never worked as one, instead owning shares in a lucrative family brewing business, Crowley's Alton Ales, which allowed him to retire before Aleister was born.
His mother, Emily Bertha Bishop (1848–1917), drew roots from a Devonshire-Somerset family and was despised by her son, whom she described as "the Beast", a name that he revelled in.
The couple had been married at Kensington Registry Office in London during November 1874.
The Crowley family were Christian; Aleister's father had been born a Quaker, but had converted to the Exclusive Brethren, a more conservative faction of a denomination known as the Plymouth Brethren.
Upon marriage, Emily had also converted to the Exclusive Brethren.
Aleister's father was particularly devout, spending his time as a travelling preacher for the sect and reading a chapter from the Bible to his wife and son after breakfast every day.
Aged 8, Aleister was sent to H.T. Habershon's evangelical Christian boarding school in Hastings, and then to a preparatory school in Cambridge run by the Reverend Henry d'Arcy Champney, whom Aleister considered a sadist.
On 5 March 1887, when Crowley was 11, his father died of tongue cancer.
Aleister would describe this as a turning point in his life, and he always maintained some admiration for his father, describing him as "his hero and his friend" ?.
Inheriting his father's wealth, he was subsequently sent to Ebor School in Cambridge, a private Plymouth Brethren school, but was expelled for misbehaviour.
Following this he attended Malvern College and then Tonbridge School, both of which he despised and soon left after only a few terms, instead beginning studies at Eastbourne College.
He became increasingly sceptical about Christianity, pointing out logical inconsistencies in the Bible to his religious teachers, and went against the Christian morality of his upbringing.

Cambridge University: 1895–1897

"For many years I had loathed being called Alick, partly because of the unpleasant sound and sight of the word, partly because it was the name by which my mother called me. Edward did not seem to suit me and the diminutives Ted or Ned were even less appropriate. Alexander was too long and Sandy suggested tow hair and freckles. I had read in some book or other that the most favourable name for becoming famous was one consisting of a dactyl followed by a spondee, as at the end of a hexameter: like Jeremy Taylor. Aleister Crowley fulfilled these conditions and Aleister is the Gaelic form of Alexander. To adopt it would satisfy my romantic ideals."

In 1895 Crowley, who soon adopted the new name of Aleister over his birth name of Edward, began a three year course at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was entered for the Moral Science Tripos studying philosophy, but with approval from his personal tutor he switched to English literature, which was not then a part of the curriculum offered.
Crowley largely spent his time at university engaged in his pastimes, one of which was mountaineering; he went on holiday to the Alps to do so every year from 1894 to 1898, and various other mountaineers who knew him at this time recognised him as "a promising climber, although somewhat erratic".
Another of his hobbies was writing poetry, which he had been doing since the age of 10, and in 1898 he privately published one hundred copies of one of his poems, 'Aceldama', but it was not a particular success.
That same year he published a string of other poems, the most notable of which was 'White Stains', a piece of erotica that had to be printed abroad as a safety measure in case it caused trouble with the British authorities.
Part of this work, according to biographer Lawrence Sutin, "deserves a place in any wide-ranging anthology of gay poetry".
A third hobby of his was the game of chess, and he joined the university's chess club, where, he later stated, he beat the president in his first year and practised two hours a day towards becoming a champion, but he eventually gave this idea up.
It was while on a winter holiday in Sweden in December 1896 that he had his first significant mystical experience.
Several later biographers, including Lawrence Sutin and Tobias Churton, believed that this was the result of Crowley's first homosexual experience.
Following this experience, Crowley began to read up on the subject of occultism and mysticism, and by the next year he had begun reading books by alchemists and magicians.
At university, he also maintained a vigorous sex life, which was largely conducted with prostitutes and girls he picked up at local pubs and cigar shops, but eventually he took part in same-sex activities.
This was despite the fact that homosexual acts were illegal and punishable with imprisonment at that time. In 1897, Crowley met a man named Herbert Charles Pollitt, the president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club, and the two entered into a relationship but broke up because Pollitt did not share Crowley's increasing interest in the esoteric.
Crowley himself later stated that "I told him frankly that I had given my life to religion and that he did not fit into the scheme. I see now how imbecile I was, how hideously wrong and weak it is to reject any part of one's personality."
In October a brief illness triggered considerations of mortality and "the futility of all human endeavour", or at least the futility of the diplomatic career that Crowley had previously considered, and instead, he decided to devote his life to the occult.
In 1897 he left Cambridge, not having taken any degree at all despite a "first class" showing in his spring 1897 exams and consistent "second class honours" results before that.
That summer, he then travelled to St Petersburg in Russia; later biographers Richard Spence and Tobias Churton suggested that Crowley had done so under the employ of the British secret service, but this remains inconclusive.

The Golden Dawn: 1898–1899

In 1898, Crowley was staying in Zermatt, Switzerland, where he met the chemist Julian L. Baker, and the two began talking about their common interest in alchemy.
Upon their return to England, Baker introduced Crowley to George Cecil Jones, a member of the occult society known as the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn', which had been founded in 1888.
Crowley was subsequently initiated into the 'Outer Order of the Golden Dawn' on 18 November 1898 by the group's leader, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (1854–1918).
The ceremony itself took place at Mark Masons Hall in London, where Crowley accepted his motto and magical name of "Frater Perdurabo", a Latin term meaning "I shall endure to the end".
Crowley moved from the elegant accommodation at the Hotel Cecil to his own luxury flat at 67–69 Chancery Lane.
He soon invited a Golden Dawn associate, Allan Bennett (1872–1923), to live with him, and Bennett became his personal tutor, teaching him more about ceremonial magic and the ritual usage of drugs.
In 1900, Bennett left London for Ceylon to study Buddhism, while in 1899 Crowley acquired 'Boleskine House' in Foyers on the shore of Loch Ness in Scotland.
He subsequently developed a love of Scottish culture, describing himself as the "Laird of Boleskine" and took to wearing traditional highland dress, even during visits back to London.
However, a schism had developed in the Golden Dawn, with MacGregor Mathers, the organisation's leader, being ousted by a group of members who were unhappy with his autocratic rule.
Crowley had previously approached this group of rebels, asking to be initiated into the further orders of the Golden Dawn, but they had declined him.
Regardless, he went directly to Mathers, who still held the post of chief and who agreed to initiate him into the Second Order.
Now loyal to Mathers, Crowley (with the help of his then mistress and fellow initiate Elaine Simpson) attempted to help crush the rebellion and unsuccessfully tried to seize a London temple space known as the 'Vault of Rosenkreutz' from the rebels.
Crowley had also developed personal feuds with some of the Golden Dawn's members; he disliked the poet W.B. Yeats, who had been one of the rebels, because Yeats had not been particularly favourable towards one of his own poems, Jephthat.

William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the 'Abbey Theatre', where he served as its chief during its early years. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman so honoured for what the Nobel Committee described as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation." Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include 'The Tower' (1928) and 'The Winding Stair and Other Poems' (1929). He was admitted into the 'Golden Dawn in March' 1890 and took the magical motto 'Daemon est Deus inversus' - (the Devil is God inverted). He was an active recruiter for the sect's Isis-Urania temple, and brought in his uncle George Pollexfen, Maud Gonne, and Florence Farr. Although he reserved a distaste for abstract and dogmatic religions founded around personality cults, he was attracted to the type of people he met at the Golden Dawn.

He also disliked Arthur Edward Waite, who would rouse the anger of his fellows at the Golden Dawn with his pedantry.

Mexico, India and Paris: 1900–1903

In 1900, Crowley travelled to Mexico via the United States, taking a local woman as his mistress, and with his good friend Oscar Eckenstein (1859–1921) proceeded to climb several mountains, including Iztaccihuatl, Popocatepetl and even Colima, the latter of which they had to abandon owing to a volcanic eruption.
During this period, Eckenstein revealed mystical leanings of his own and told Crowley that he needed to improve the control of his mind, recommending the Indian practice of raja yoga in order to do so. Crowley had continued his magical experimentation on his own after leaving Mathers and the 'Golden Dawn', and his writings suggest that he developed the magical word Abrahadabra during this time.
Leaving Mexico, a country that he would always remain fond of, Crowley visited San Francisco, Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong and Ceylon, where he met up with Allan Bennett and devoted himself further to yoga, from which he claimed to have achieved the spiritual state of dhyana.
It was during this visit that Bennett decided to become a Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition, travelling to Burma, while Crowley went on to India, studying various Hindu practices.
In 1902, he was joined in India by Eckenstein and several other mountaineers; Guy Knowles, H. Pfannl, V. Wesseley, and Dr Jules Jacot-Guillarmod. Together the Eckenstein-Crowley expedition attempted to climb K2.
On the journey, Crowley was afflicted with influenza, malaria, and snow blindness, while other expedition members were similarly struck with illness.
They reached an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,100 m) before deciding to turn back.
In 1903 Crowley wed Rose Edith Kelly, the sister of his friend, the painter Gerald Festus Kelly, in a "marriage of convenience", however, soon after their marriage, Crowley actually fell in love with her and set about to successfully prove his affections.

Rose Edith Kelly (born 23 July 1874 in London, England, died 1932) married noted author, magician and occultist Aleister Crowley in 1903. In 1904, she aided him in the 'Cairo Working' that led to the reception of 'The Book of the Law', on which Crowley based much of his philosophy and religion, Thelema. Rose had two children with Crowley: Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith (born in July 1904, died in Spring 1906) and Lola Zaza (born in 1906). Rose and Aleister divorced in 1909. In 1911 Crowley had her committed to an asylum for alcohol dementia. Upon her release she married Dr. Gormley, a Roman Catholic, but her alcoholism returned.
Rose Kelly died in 1932.

Egypt and The Book of the Law: 1904

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In 1904, Crowley and his new wife Rose travelled to Egypt using the pseudonym of Prince and Princess Chioa Khan, titles which Crowley claimed had been bestowed upon him by an eastern potentate.
According to Crowley's own account, Rose, who was pregnant, began to experience visions while in the country, regularly informing him that "they are waiting for you", but not providing him with any further information as to who "they" were.
It was on 18 March, after Crowley sought the aid of the Egyptian god Thoth in a magical rite, that she actually revealed who "they" were – the ancient Egyptian god Horus and his alleged messenger.
After asking the god Thoth (the Aeon Thoth ?) to clarify the matter, and getting Rose to identify the source of the message as Horus, Crowley took Rose to the Boulaq Museum, and asked her to point out Horus to him.
Then she pointed to a glass case in the distance, and insisted that this was what he sought.
It turned out to be a small funerary stele (XXVIth Dynasty) for a priest of ancient Thebes named Ankh-af-na-Khonsu.

The Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu i (also known as the Stele of Revealing) is a painted, wooden offering stele, discovered in 1858 at the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Dayr al-Bahri by François Auguste Ferdinand Mariette. It was originally made for the Montu-priest Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu, and was discovered near his coffin ensemble of two sarcophagi and two anthropomorphic inner coffins. It dates to circa 680/70 BCE, the period of the late Dynasty 25/early Dynasty 26. Originally located in the former Bulaq Museum under inventory number 666, the stele was moved around 1902 to the newly opened Egyptian Museum of Cairo (inventory number A 9422; Temporary Register Number 25/12/24/11), where it remains today.

This point of contact depicted a scene of the enthroned hawk-headed sun-god Horus with the priest making offerings before him; - above them are a falcon-winged solar disk, and the surrounding image of Nuit, goddess of the heavens, framing the whole composition.
Very significantly for Crowley, this artifact was listed in the museum catalog as Stele #666;   piece 666, the number that he had identified with since childhood - it later became known as the Stele of Revealing.

θηρίον - (Therion - Greek:  beast) is a God found in the mystical system of Thelema, which was established in 1904 with Aleister Crowley's writing of The Book of the Law. Therion's female counterpart is Babalon, another Thelemic deity. He, as a Thelemic personage, evolved from that of the Beast of the Book of Revelation, whom Crowley intuitively identified himself with since childhood. Indeed, throughout his life he occasionally referred to himself as “Master Therion” or sometimes “The Beast 666”.

The Beast of Revelations
William Blake
The  Ἀριθμὸς τοῦ θηρίου (Arithmos tou Thēriou - Number of the Beast) is the numerical value of the name of the person symbolised by the beast from the sea, the first of two symbolic beasts described in Chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation which is part of the Christian 'New Testament'.
'καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. 18Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων τὸν νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου· ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστί· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ χξϛʹ.

This is the 'Foundation Myth' of the religion of Thelema (which is the Greek word for 'the True Will', paired with Agape or Love, both of whose numerology totals 93; hence his system is known as the 93 Current).
Rose continued to insist that forces from beyond were seeking to contact him, and directed him to perform a ritual in a room with many mirrors and employing some correspondences alien to his Golden Dawn training, which he summarized as:
To be performed before a window open to the E. or N. without incense. The room to be filled with jewels, but only diamonds to be worn. A sword, unconsecrated, 44 pearl beads to be told. Stand. Bright daylight at 12.30 noon. Lock doors. White robes. Bare feet. Be very loud. Saturday. Use the Sign of Apophis and Typhon.
So, he acquired a translation of the text from the stele, rendered it into verse, devised what he called 'The Ritual of Invocation According to the Divine Vision of W. the Seer', and performed it upon March 20th, now known as the 'Equinox of the Gods' (and documented in his book of the same name, a full account of the experience, quoted above).
The result changed his life, the course of modern occult philosophy.
At the hours of noon on April 8th, 9th, and 10th in the year 1904, Aleister Crowley received the transmission known as 'Liber AL vel Legis': The Book of the Law, in the Victorious City of Cairo in Egypt.
While at first he claims to have rejected it, this philosophically revolutionary vision of a New 'Aeon' (Age) of Thelema was ultimately to radically transform his understanding of the universe, his practice of the Great Work, and his legacy to the innocently unsuspecting world.
Comparisons might be made with other transmissions even more recent: C.G. Jung's 'Septem Sermones ad Mortuos' (Seven Sermons to the Dead), poet W.B. Yeats’ odd work 'A Vision', Blavatsky's 'Book of Dyzan', and even 'OAHSPE' and the 'Book of Mormon'.
And if we remain even remotely willing to suspend our disbelief sufficiently to accept the validity of any of these, it would seem rather unfair not to extend the same courtesy to Crowley.
The full title of the book is 'Liber Al vel Legis, sub figura CCXX', as delivered by XCIII=418 to DCLXVI, and it is commonly referred to as 'The Book of the Law'.
Through the reception of this book, Crowley proclaimed the arrival of a new stage in the spiritual evolution of humanity, to be known as the 'Æon of Horus' - ( aeon here is not used in the sense of a spiritual entity, but rather as a division of time).
Crowley claimed he heard a disembodied voice talking to him, claiming that it was coming from a being Crowley named as Aiwass the Minister of Hoor-Paar-Kraat.
Crowley's disciple and later secretary Israel Regardie believed that this voice came from Crowley's subconscious, but opinions among Thelemites differ widely.
Crowley said that he wrote down everything the voice told him over the course of the next three days, and subsequently titled it 'Liber AL vel Legis' or 'The Book of the Law'.
In the preface to the 'Book of the Law', Crowley explains that the ideas presented within the book are symbolized by Egyptian Gods for 'literary convenience'.
The Book declares that a new Aeon (Age) for mankind had begun, and that Crowley would serve as its prophet.
As a supreme moral law, Nuit declared "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law", and that people should learn to live in tune with their "True Will". 
The story goes that although this event would prove to be a cornerstone in Crowley's life, being the origin of the philosophy of Thelema, he claimed at the time he was unsure what to think about the whole situation.
He wrote that he was "dumbfounded about what to do with The Book of the Law" and eventually decided to ignore the instructions that it commanded him to perform, which included taking the Stele of Revealing from the museum, fortifying his own island and translating the Book into all the world's languages.
Instead he simply sent typescripts of the work to several occultists whom he knew, and then "put aside the book with relief".

Kangchenjunga and China: 1905–1906

Returning to Boleskine, Crowley came to believe, for reasons that are documented in Crowley's diaries, that his former friend Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers had become so jealous of his progression as a ceremonial magician that he had begun using magic against him, and the relationship between the two broke down.
On 28 July 1905, Rose gave birth to Crowley's first child, a daughter, whom he named Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith, although she would commonly be referred to simply by her last name.
He also founded a publishing company, naming it the 'Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth' in parody of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and through this released more of his own poetry, including 'The Sword of Song'.
While his poetry often received strong reviews (either positive or negative), it never sold well, and attempting to gain more publicity, he issued a reward of £100 for whomever could write the best essay on the topic of his work.
The winner of this would prove to be J.F.C. Fuller (1878–1966), a British Army officer and military historian, whose essay, 'The Star in the West', heralded Crowley's poetry as some of the greatest ever written.
Crowley decided to climb another of the world's greatest mountains, Kangchenjunga in the Himalayas, widely thought of as "the most treacherous mountain in the world" by climbers at the time.
Assembling a team consisting of Dr Jacot-Guillarmod, a veteran of the K2 climb, as well as several other continental Europeans including Charles Adolphe Reymond, Alexis Pache and Alcesti C. Rigo de Righi, the group travelled to British India to undertake the task.
Throughout the expedition, there was much argument between Crowley and the others who felt that he was reckless.
They eventually mutinied against Crowley's control, with the other climbers heading back down the mountain as nightfall approached despite Crowley's warnings that it was too dangerous. Crowley was proved right as Pache and several porters were subsequently killed in an accident.
Returning from this expedition, he met up with Rose and Lilith in Kolkata before being forced to leave India after shooting dead a native who had tried to mug him.
Travelling to China, Crowley soon fell down a forty foot cliff; finding himself unscathed, he said he believed that he was being protected for some prophetic purpose, and underwent a religious experience that he felt bestowed on him the rank of 'Exempt Adept', the highest grade of the 'Second Order of the Golden Dawn'.
Devoting himself fully to spiritual and magical work, he began studying the 'γοητεία' (Goetia), and recited the grimoire's preliminary invocation daily in order to try to get in contact with his True Will.

γοητεία (Medieval Latin, anglicised goety - from Greek goēteia "sorcery") refers to a practice which includes the invocation of angels or the evocation of demons, and usage of the term in English largely derives from the 17th-century grimoire 'The Lesser Key of Solomon', which features an 'Ars Goetia' as its first section. It contains descriptions of the evocation of seventy-two demons, famously edited by Aleister Crowley in 1904 as T'he Book of the Goetia of Solomon the King'. Goetic Theurgy, another practice described in the 'Lesser Key of Solomon', is similar to the book's description of Goetia, but is used to invoke aerial spirits.

The Crowleys spent the next few months travelling around China, but it was decided that in March 1906, they would return to Britain.
Rose took Lilith with her and set off for Europe via India, while Crowley himself decided to travel back via the United States, where he hoped he would be able to get support for a second expedition to Kangchenjunga.
Before departing, Crowley visited a significant lover and 'Scarlet Woman' Elaine Simpson in Shanghai.
She was a fellow occultist who had been his colleague in the 'Golden Dawn'.
She was fascinated by 'The Book of the Law' and the apparent prophetic message that it contained, and together they performed a ritual to invoke Aiwass once more.
Inspired by the text, Simpson acted as a psychic medium and told Crowley that Aiwass wanted him to "Return to Egypt, with same surroundings. There I will give thee signs."
Nonetheless, Crowley ignored the advice of Simpson, instead heading off to America. Stopping off at the Japanese port of Kobe along the way, Crowley had a vision which he interpreted as meaning that the great spiritual beings known as the 'Secret Chiefs' had admitted him into the 'Third Order of the Golden Dawn'.
Subsequently arriving in America, he found no support for his proposed mountaineering expedition, and so set sail to return to Britain, arriving there in June 1906.

The A∴A∴ and the Holy Books of Thelema: 1907–1910

Upon arrival at Britain, Crowley learned that his daughter Lilith had died of typhoid in Rangoon and that his wife had begun suffering from alcoholism.
Heartbroken, his health began to suffer, and he underwent a series of surgical operations.
He began having a short-lived sexual affair with Vera "Lola" Stepp, an actress to whom he would devote some of his poetry, while Rose gave birth to his second daughter, Lola Zaza, for whom Crowley devised a special ritual of thanksgiving.
Saying that he believed that he was now amongst the highest level of spiritual adepts, Crowley began to think about founding his own magical society.
In this he was supported by his friend and fellow occultist George Cecil Jones.
The pair began to practice rituals together at Jones' home in Coulsdon, and for the autumn equinox on 22 September 1907 developed a new ceremony based upon the Golden Dawn initiatory rite, for which Crowley composed a verse liturgy entitled "Liber 671", and later dubbed "Liber Pyramidos".
The pair repeated this ritual again on 9 October, when they had made some alterations to it.
In Crowley's eyes, this ritual would prove to be one of the "greatest events of his career" during which he "attained the knowledge and conversation of his True Will" and "entered the trance of union with godhead".
He therefore finally succeeded with the aim of his Abramelin operation – as set out in the grimoire known as 'The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage' – which he had been working on for months.
Because of his spiritual attainment Crowley, on 30 October 1907, penned "Liber VII", a text that he again claimed to have been dictated to him by Aiwass through automatic writing.
Following 'The Book of the Law', which had been received in 1904, "Liber VII" would prove to be the second book in a series of Holy Books of Thelema.
Over the next few days, he also received a further Holy Book, "Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente".
Soon, Crowley, Jones and J.F.C. Fuller decided to found a new magical order as a successor to the 'Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn', which would be known as the 'A∴A∴', the 'Argenteum Astrum' or the 'Silver Star'.
Following the order's foundation, Crowley continued to write down more received Thelemic Holy Books during the last two months of the year, including "Liber LXVI", "Liber Arcanorum", "Liber Porta Lucis, Sub Figura X", "Liber Tau", "Liber Trigrammaton" and "Liber DCCCXIII vel Ararita".[87] Meanwhile, effectively separated from his wife Rose by this point, Crowley entered into a romantic and sexual affair with Ada Leverson (1862–1933), an author and friend of Oscar Wilde.
This affair was brief, and in February 1908, Crowley was reunited with his wife as she had overcome her alcoholism, and together the couple travelled to Eastbourne for a holiday.
Rose however relapsed and Crowley, who disliked her when drunk, fled to Paris.
In Paris during October 1908, he claimed to have again produced samadhi by the use of ritual but this time without hashish.
He published an account of this success in order to show that his method worked and that one could achieve great mystical results without living as a hermit.
On 30 December 1908, Aleister Crowley using the pseudonym Oliver Haddo made accusations of plagiarism against Somerset Maugham, author of the novel 'The Magician'. Crowley's article appeared in 'Vanity Fair', edited then by Frank Harris who admired Crowley and who would later write the famous work 'My Life and Loves'.
Admittedly, Maugham did model the character of his magician Oliver Haddo after Crowley himself, and Crowley stated that Maugham acquiesced privately on the question of plagiarism.
In 1909, when doctors stated that Rose required institutionalisation for her alcoholism, Crowley finally decided that it was time to get a divorce, but because he didn't want the proceedings to reflect badly upon her, he agreed that she could divorce him for infidelity, thereby meaning that any bad appearances would instead be reflected upon him, and he remained her friend following the proceedings.
Crowley soon moved on and took a woman named Leila Waddell as his lover or "Scarlet Woman".
Trying to gain more members for his A∴A∴, Crowley decided to begin publishing a biannual journal, 'The Equinox', which was billed as "The Review of Scientific Illuminism".
Starting with a first issue in 1909, 'The Equinox' contained pieces by Crowley, Fuller and a young poet Crowley had met in 1907 named Victor Neuburg.
Soon other occultists had joined the order, including solicitor Richard Noel Warren, artist Austin Osman Spare, Horace Sheridan-Bickers, author George Raffalovich, Francis Henry Everard Joseph Fielding, engineer Herbert Edward Inman, Kenneth Ward and Charles Stansfeld Jones.
In 1910, Crowley performed his series of dramatic rites, the 'Rites of Eleusis', with A∴A∴ members Leila Waddell (Laylah) and Victor Benjamin Neuburg.

Ordo Templi Orientis: 1912–1913

According to Crowley, Theodor Reuss called on him in 1912 to accuse him of publishing O.T.O. secrets, which Crowley dismissed on the grounds of having never attained the grade in which these secrets were given (IXth Degree).

Theodor Reuss (June 28, 1855 – October 28, 1923) was an Anglo-German tantric occultist, anarchist, police spy, journalist, singer, and promoter of Women's Liberation; and head of 'Ordo Templi Orientis'.

Reuss opened up Crowley's latest book, 'The Book of Lies', and showed Crowley the passage. This sparked a long conversation which led to Crowley assuming the Xth Degree of O.T.O. and becoming Grand Master of the English-speaking section of O.T.O. called 'Mysteria Mystica Maxima'.
Crowley would eventually introduce the practice of male homosexual sex magick into O.T.O. as one of the highest degrees of the Order for he believed it to be the most powerful formula.
Crowley placed the new degree above the Tenth Degree – not to be confused with any title in his own Order – and numbered it the Eleventh Degree.
There was a protest from some members of O.T.O. in Germany and the rest of continental Europe that occasioned a persistent rift with Crowley.

Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) (Order of the Temple of the East, or the Order of Oriental Templars) is an international fraternal and religious organization founded at the beginning of the 20th century. English author and occultist Aleister Crowley has become the best-known member of the order. Originally it was intended to be modelled after and associated with Freemasonry, but under the leadership of Aleister Crowley, O.T.O. was reorganized around the 'Law of Thelema' as its central religious principle. Similar to many secret societies, O.T.O. membership is based on an initiatory system with a series of degree ceremonies that use ritual drama to establish fraternal bonds and impart spiritual and philosophical teachings. O.T.O. also includes the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) or Gnostic Catholic Church, which is the ecclesiastical arm of the Order. Its central rite, which is public, is called 'Liber XV', or the 'Gnostic Mass'.

In March 1913, producer Crowley introduced Leila Waddell in 'The Ragged Ragtime Girls' follies review at the Old Tivoli in London where it enjoyed a brief run.
In July 1913, the production enjoyed a six-week run in Moscow where Crowley met a young Hungarian girl named Anny Ringler.
Crowley went on to practice sado-masochistic sex with Ringler.
According to Crowley, "... She had passed beyond the region where pleasure had meaning for her. She could only feel through pain, and my own means of making her happy was to inflict physical cruelties as she directed. The kind of relation was altogether new to me; and it was because of this, intensified as it was by the environment of the self-torturing soul of Russia, that I became inspired to create by the next six weeks."
While in Moscow, Crowley would see Anny for an hour and then he would write poetry.
During this summer in Moscow, Crowley would write two of his most memorable works, the 'Hymn to Pan' and the 'Gnostic Mass' or 'Ecclesiae Gnosticae Catholicae Canon Missae'.
'The Hymn to Pan' would be read at his funeral thirty four years later.
Certain Thelemites regularly perform the 'Gnostic Mass' to this day.
It symbolises the act of sex as a magical or religious ritual.
Upon returning to London in the autumn of 1913, Crowley published the tenth and final number of volume one of 'The Equinox'.
In December 1913 in Paris, Crowley would engage Victor Benjamin Neuburg in 'The Paris Working'.
The first ritual took place on New Year's Eve 1914.
In a period of seven weeks, Crowley and Neuburg performed a total of twenty four rituals which they recorded in the 'holy' book formally entitled' Opus Lutetianum'.
Around eight months later Neuburg had a nervous breakdown.
Afterward, Crowley and Neuburg would never see each other again.

United States and Canada: 1914–1918

During his time in the U.S., Crowley practised the task of a Magister Templi in the A∴A∴ as he conceived it, namely interpreting every phenomenon as a particular dealing of "God" with his soul.
He began to see various women he met as officers in his ongoing initiation, associating them with priests wearing animal masks in Egyptian ritual.
A meditation during his relationship with one of these women, the poet Jeanne Robert Foster, led him to claim the title of Magus, also referring to the system of the A∴A∴.
In June 1915, Crowley met Jeanne Robert Foster in the company of her friend Hellen Hollis, a journalist; Crowley would have affairs with both women.
Foster was a famous New York fashion model, journalist, editor, poet and married.
Crowley's plan with Foster was to produce his first son; but in spite of a series of magical operations she did not get pregnant.
By the end of 1915, the affair would be over.
During a trip to Vancouver in 1915, Crowley met Wilfred Smith, Frater 132 of the Vancouver Lodge of O.T.O., and in 1930 granted him permission to establish Agape Lodge in Southern California.
During the same trip in 1915, Crowley stopped over at Parke Davis in Detroit for some mescaline.[106]
In early 1916, Crowley had an illicit liaison with Alice Richardson, the wife of Ananda Coomaraswamy, one of the greatest art historians of the day.
On the stage, Richardson was known as Ratan Devi, mezzo-soprano interpreter of East Indian music. Richardson became pregnant but on a voyage back to England, in mid-1916, she had a miscarriage.
Just before his affair with Ratan Devi, Crowley was practising sex magick with Gerda Maria von Kothek, a German prostitute.
Two periods of magical experimentation followed.
In June 1916, he began the first of these at the New Hampshire cottage of Evangeline Adams, having ghostwritten most of her two books on astrology.
His diaries at first show discontent at the gap between his view of the grade of Magus and his view of himself: "It is no good making up my mind to do anything material; for I have no means. But this would vanish if I could make up my mind."
Despite his objections to sacrificing a living animal, he resolved to crucify a frog as part of a rehearsal of the life of Jesus in the Gospels (afterward declaring it his willing familiar), "with the idea ... that some supreme violation of all the laws of my being would break down my Karma or dissolve the spell that seems to bind me".
Slightly more than a month later, having taken ether (ethyl oxide), he had a vision of the universe from a modern scientific cosmology that he frequently referred to in later writings.
Crowley began another period of magical work on an island in the Hudson River after buying large amounts of red paint instead of food.
Having painted "Do what thou wilt" on the cliffs at both sides of the island, he received gifts from curious visitors.
Here at the island he had visions of seeming past lives, though he refused to endorse any theory of what they meant beyond linking them to his unconscious.
Towards the end of his stay, he had a shocking experience he linked to "the Chinese wisdom" which made even Thelema appear insignificant.
Nevertheless, he continued in his work.
Before leaving the country he formed a sexual and magical relationship with Leah Hirsig, whom he had met earlier, and with her help began painting canvases with more creativity and passion.
Richard B. Spence writes in his 2008 book Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult that Crowley could have been a lifelong agent for British Intelligence. While this may have already been the case during his many travels to Tsarist Russia, Switzerland, Asia, Mexico and North Africa that had started in his student days, he could have been involved with this line of work during his life in America during the First World War, under a cover of being a German propaganda agent and a supporter of Irish independence. Crowley's mission might have been to gather information about the German intelligence network, the Irish independent activists and produce aberrant propaganda, aiming at compromising the German and Irish ideals.
As an agent provocateur he could have played some role in provoking the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, thereby bringing the United States closer to active involvement in the war alongside the Allies.
He also used German magazines 'The Fatherland' and 'The International' as outlets for his other writings.
The question of whether Crowley was a spy has always been subject to debate, but Spence uncovered a document from the US Army's old Military Intelligence Division supporting Crowley's own claim to having been a spy:
Aleister Crowley was an employee of the British Government ... in this country on official business of which the British Consul, New York City has full cognizance

Abbey of Thelema: 1920–1923

Soon after moving from West 9th St. in Greenwich Village, New York City, to Palermo, Sicily with their newborn daughter Anne Leah (nicknamed Poupée, born February 1920, died in a hospital in Palermo 14 October 1920), Crowley, along with Leah Hirsig, founded the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalù (Palermo) on 14 April 1920, the day the lease for the villa Santa Barbara was signed by Sir Alastor de Kerval (Crowley) and Contessa Lea Harcourt (Leah Hirsig).
The Crowleys arrived in Cefalu on 1 April 1920.
During their stay at the abbey Hirsig was known as Soror Alostrael, Crowley's Scarlet Woman, the name Crowley used for his female sex magick practitioners in reference to the consort of the Beast of the Apocalypse whose number is 666.
The name of the abbey was borrowed from Rabelais's epic Gargantua, where the "Abbey of Thélème" is described as a sort of anti-monastery where the lives of the inhabitants were "spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure".
This idealistic utopia was to be the model of Crowley's commune, while also being a type of magical school, giving it the designation "Collegium ad Spiritum Sanctum", 'The College of the Holy Spirit'.
The general programme was in line with the A∴A∴ course of training, and included daily adorations to the Sun, a study of Crowley's writings, regular yogic and ritual practices (which were to be recorded), as well as general domestic labour.
The object, naturally, was for students to devote themselves to the Great Work of discovering and manifesting their True Wills.
Two women, Hirsig and Shumway (her magical name was Sister Cypris after Aphrodite), were both carrying Crowley's seed. Hirsig had a two-year old son named Hansi and Shumway had a three-year old boy named Howard; they were not Crowley's but he nicknamed them Dionysus and Hermes respectively.
After Poupée died, Hirsig had a miscarriage but Shumway gave birth to a daughter, Astarte Lulu Panthea.
Hirsig suspected Shumway's Black Magic foul play and what Crowley found when reading Shumway's magical diary (everybody had to keep one while at the abbey for reasons explained in Liber E) appalled him.
Shumway was banished from the abbey and the Beast lamented the death of his children. However, Shumway was soon back in the abbey again to take care of her offspring.
Mussolini's Fascist government expelled Crowley from the country at the end of April 1923.

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