The following is an excerpt from My Babylon – Book Six: Commentary, something I am putting together to explain the esoteric content to the uninitiated readers. You may have heard some of this griping from me before. Book Six will also contain some of my posts from Scroll of Thoth. So in fairness, if you are a reader of this blog, just sign up for the mailing list and I will send you a free copy of Book Six when it comes out.
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I have a love-hate relationship with Aleister Crowley. I even resent the fact you can’t even talk about magick without talking about Uncle Al. He’s just that influential, and a force in modern culture too, but most people don’t realize it. It’s safe to say that the New Age movement wouldn’t look anything like it does now without Uncle Al. He’s the evil, spooky, boogie-man, hiding under your nice safe bed of astrology, crystals, and Angelology. No, I did not make that word up.
You know the cover to the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s album? The one with all the famous people on the cover? Top row, second one in from the left, the creepy looking bald guy, that’s Uncle Al. He’s known as a drinking, fornicating, ego-monster of mythical proportions. He referred to himself as Therion, which in Greek means, “beast,” meaning The Beast, the one from Revelations with the triple sixes. He created a religion called Thelema, in which one of the major deities is Babalon. Getting the picture? In essence, My Babylon, is a Thelemic fairy tale. A fantasy built on Uncle Al’s worldview.
I still hate the fucker most days.
I have a love-hate relationship with his followers too. Does that come through with Ezra? They are some of the most intelligent, articulate, fun-to-be-around people I’ve ever met. Until they start talking about Master Therion. Then it’s all, “Aleister Crowely” this, and “Crowley” that, and “He was such a genius,” and on and on until you want to slap them and scream, “The religion is supposed to me about individualism you fucking sheep!” But I still love hanging out with them.
Was Crowley a genius? That’s the question that turns me into a dog chasing his own tail. On one hand, he said some massively stupid shit, even for a man of his era (1875-1947). Like how the word yoga has Latin roots. Or using human sacrifice as a euphemism for masturbation. In fact, a lot of his failings in scholarship and logic come from his intense need to see everything as interconnected, even when it’s not. He also stole a lot of his material, much it of it from the Golden Dawn, a somewhat infamous magical order during the Victorian Age.
On the other hand, the way he mixed Western magical systems with Eastern ones was astounding. Magick had been derided in the West, driven underground. With the link between teacher and student often lost, much of the ancient wisdom and work of later alchemists was misunderstood. By drawing the parallels between Eastern mysticism and Western occultism, he reestablished the meanings of the rituals.
But I still find it hard not to hate him. His ego got in the way of everything, especially later in life. The ritual that Ezra does in Book One, The Star Ruby, originally instructed the magician to face East, pretty standard procedure when it comes to magick rituals, the directions have meaning. When he re-wrote the ritual years later, the instructions changed, telling the practitioner to face towards Crowley’s house in Scotland, like it was some kind of fucking Mecca. How’s that for being full of yourself?
In some ways, Mike is my rebellion against Crowley. He’s still the Beast, still an asshole, but lacking in the kind of ego Crowley had. Mike has no desire to insert himself into anyone else’s magick. He has no need to be adored by the masses. Just a desperate need to be adored on a personal level.
It was Uncle Al who started spelling magick with a K on the end. He did this to differentiate it from the stage magic of the illusionists. Important if you notice that Crowley was a contemporary of Harry Houdini. Also infuriatingly far-sighted, practically prophetic, as you yield very different results if you search Google with magic rather than magick.
Crowley also provides what has come to be the universally accepted definition of magick. “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” Different magical styles have developed since Crowley’s time that tweak that definition a bit, but no one can deny his influence.
Like the author, Mike is a practitioner of chaos magick. This does not mean I use deterministic or random mathematics in practices, though some chaos magicians do. This does not mean I am a Discordian, though many of my fellows are, and I respect them. You could probably get as many different definitions of chaos magick as there are chaos magicians. Kind of the point really. Some would even tell you that chaos magick as a “tradition” no longer exists, because all modern magicians have become chaos magicians to a certain extent. It’s hard to argue with that.
In my view, the core of chaos magick is the ability to use belief as a tool. A chaos magician can shift from one paradigm to another without pause, using whichever worldview currently suits their needs. Legio may be the best example of this. While he at times seems to totally buy the Christian perspective, as an antagonist, yet at the same time worships pagan gods. For a chaos magician, there need be no conflict. There can be a one-and-only-all-powerful GOD, and at the same time, gods, who are no less important. He recognizes that the culture he participates in is dominated by Christian beliefs, and that if he wants to influence that culture on a magical level, he must believe in that mythology.
One of the founder’s of chaos magick, quoted often in My Babylon, is Peter J. Carroll. The saying often used by Carroll as the chaos magician’s creed: “nothing is true, everything is permitted,” comes from Nietzche, who attributed it to the original Ḥashshāshīns of Middle East, active during the time of the Crusades. If taken as truth, it’s meant to liberate the magus and open their mind to all possibilities. It is not an excuse for licentiousness, as it is often portrayed. Though deviancy is sometimes encouraged as a means to break down one’s reservations.
Crowley’s supporters claim he was the first chaos magician, the first to start combining traditions as he saw fit. That’s not entirely true, but he did make combining traditions fashionable. There have been reactions against it, specifically from the re-constructionist movements in modern paganism. Those people want to bring back that really old time religion. I don’t see it happening. It will never be popular because we have moved so far past the culture that created those religions. We are too global now. The Crowley/chaos magicians rule the day now. Even the established religions are borrowing from each other. No one blinks an eye when a white guy in America calls himself a Buddhist or a Muslim. Some call this “cultural appropriation” as if it’s some kind of theft. That’s a subject for another book (hint).