There is no law beyond do what thou wilt; every man and woman is a star; the word of sin is restriction.” For some, these three short epigrams heralded the end of Christianity and the dawn of a new age. They certainly provided successive generations of beats, hipsters, hippies, punks and ravers, whether they knew it or not, with a manifesto of sorts.
The words come from The Book of the Law, an obscure prose poem written 100 years ago by Aleister Crowley, often described as the key to the notorious Magus’s vast pantheon of writings. A multi-layered template of a magickal system, encompassing Qabalah, single-point meditation, sex rituals, excessive drug use and a good deal more, The Book of the Law made Crowley one of the 20th century’s hidden prophets, a truly outrageous figure presiding over rock culture’s original spirit of misrule.
… Yet the hysterical press accounts of sex, drugs and sacrifice at his Abbey of Thelema, in Sicily in the early 1920s, remain the core of the myth of Crowley as evil incarnate. It was an image, along with his famously hypnotic stare, that led Bond author Ian Fleming to model Blofeld on Crowley. They met when Fleming worked in British intelligence during the war. That a man so publicly reviled could still penetrate the corridors of power is a prime example of his unlikely reach. Crowley was Fleming’s first choice for interrogating Rudolf Hess when the occult-obsessed Nazi was captured in Scotland after a bizarre astrological sting.
It was also Crowley who gave Churchill his famous victory sign, a magickal gesture to counteract the Nazi’s use of the swastika…In the 1940s, one of his closest followers was a young Californian adept, Jack Parsons, one of the founding fathers of the American space programme. His work at the fledgling Jet Propulsion Laboratories lay the groundwork for the Apollo moon missions.
Rocket fuel, space exploration and Crowley’s brand of ceremonial sex magick was a powerful mix. Working with Parsons was none other than L Ron Hubbard, who later founded the cult of Scientology, which now attracts so many Hollywood stars….
A hundred years on, Crowley remains one of those figures often dismissed in public, but whose work is collected and studied in private. His immediate following may have been small, but his influence on modern culture is as pervasive as that of Freud or Jung. As an occultist, he can justly claim to have made a lasting change on the world, refashioning the occult with his famous dictum to combine the aim of religion with the method of science.