Crowley’s understanding of liberation evolves from “Berashith,” to the point where his final position resembles something he rejected in that essay, while what he recommended actually resembles the villainous path in his later spiritual system.
“Berashith” is a foundational essay of Aleister Crowley’s, and often taken to present an ontology that is consistent throughout Crowley’s life. In fact, this early essay has a number of limitations compared to the Book of the Law and to some of Crowley’s later writings, and is ultimately a reductionistic view of the relationship between nothingness and manifestation.
Last month I went on Talk Gnosis’ podcast to give a brief introduction to Charles Stansfeld Jones aka Frater Achad, including his history as Crowley’s “magical son,” his involvement with the Universal Brotherhood, his conversion to Roman Catholicism, and his declaration of the Aeon of Maat — among other things! Watch or listen here.
The radical French philosopher Georges Bataille and the English magus Aleister Crowley at first seem to have much in common—both explored the darker sides of eroticism and their links to spiritual experience, both were evocative writers expressing philosophical standpoints considered beyond the pale of polite early twentieth-century society, and both sought a rapturous mystical dissolution of the ego-bound self, a union with what traditional mystics would call the One or the All. But their understandings of the end of the mystic’s quest differ greatly—even to the point that, according to orthodox Thelema’s conception of the magician’s supreme goal of “crossing the Abyss,” Bataille could be labeled a member of the vilified Black Brotherhood, that society of Dark Adepts who ultimately fail in their spiritual task.
In a time when articles in the mainstream press highlight Steve Bannon’s occultism, what is the relationship between esotericism and politics? Can esotericism support human rights and social change, or is it inherently conservative — or inherently apolitical? Or does esotericism have the potential to undergird a liberating populist spirituality?