Aleister Crowley is best known for his work in the occult, his writings on Magick, and creating the religion of Thelema. He was a giant of his time with many talents and, some argue, many flaws as well. Of all his gifts, his writing was the vehicle that drove his genius. His Book of the Law and other mystical works are widely read by students of occult philosophy. Few, however, are familiar with his more artistic endeavors, including his literary novel Moonchild.
For whatever reason, stories help readers integrate and understand larger themes and ideas present in the narrative. Perhaps that is why people look to allegories like Cain and Abel when trying to understand the nature of murder, or recite The Boy Who Cried Wolf when teaching their children not to lie. The truths appearing in fiction take no intellectual effort to grasp; they work subtly on the reader’s mind in a way that is easier to digest than the cold, hard philosopher’s stone. The great religions of the world understand this. Crowley took note as well.
His novel carries the message of Thelema. The characters and themes in the book were imagined and created to dramatize and illustrate its practice. The reader sees Thelema in action and learns of Crowley’s broader beliefs and philosophy as the drama unfolds. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law; Love is the law, love under will.” A short phrase with monumental import. In Moonchild, he demonstrates the fate of those who would misinterpret its meaning and be seduced by the temptations of Black Magick. Whether intended or not, Moonchild provides a more compelling case for his new religion than his other works ever could.
Crowley has had many successful works, including his Book of Shadows, Book of the Law (or Liber al vel Legis), Magick Without Tears, Magick in Theory and Practice, and The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Despite the success of these works, he was widely criticized and labeled the ‘Wickedest Man in the World’ by the publications of his day. He was a Renaissance man whose life can be traced through fantastic events. His epic mountaineering attempts, scandalous love affairs, political espionage, and prolific career as a poet, writer and painter cemented his legacy as a figure that was larger than life. His primary interest was the occult, and he carried out his studies with unquenchable energy. He claimed to be aided in his efforts by Aiwass, his so-called guardian angel who first spoke to him when he visited the ancient land of Egypt. He was prolific writer and insatiable researcher: producing volumes of work throughout his life filled with forgotten symbols, imagery and ritual. His texts on divination made him well known to modern illuminati conspiracy theorists; but those who have taken the time to read his texts could hardly believe he would associate with any group aiming to control another’s will.
He had an undeniable impact on the post war counter culture and drew the interest of some of the most well-known musical geniuses of that time: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones to name a few. Timothy Leary—arguably the man who most embodied the philosophy of the 60’s—enthusiastically studied and disseminated his work. Leary was thoroughly convinced of the power in the individual’s divine will. While playing a deck of Aleister Crowley’s Toth tarot cards, Leary famously asked for knowledge of his purpose. He then cut the deck to the Great Beast 666 and interpreted this to mean he was Crowley incarnate and obliged to finish the Magician’s work.
Crowley’s life and work will continue to influence those interested in the alternative side of spirituality. His novel Moonchild is a quintessential work for anyone wanting to fully understand his ideas.