I’ve always been ambivalent about Aleister Crowley. Was he evil, or was he a great adept in the history of western occultism?
One thing I know is that he was a great fiction writer. I’ve read both his novels, ‘Moonchild’ and ‘Diary Of A Drug Fiend’, and I shall never forget the effect the early chapters of ‘Diary Of A Drug Fiend’ had on me.
Three features struck me: first the incredible effectiveness of the juxtaposition. Aleister Crowley wrote in the first person as Peter Pendragon who had been a pilot in World War 1, and he alternated descriptions of experiences while flying a plane with Peter’s experiences of a night out in London, during which he falls in love with a girl he meets called Louise. The relationship between the flying examples and the main narrative is like a dance.
Secondly, I was impressed by the vivid descriptions of characters in the story, which mostly make them sound disagreeable, and yet it’s as if you can see them standing in front of you. He describes one lady character as ‘like a white maggot.’ In my writing class they’re always talking about economy of description, but that’s a more modern idea, and there’s nothing wrong with a lot of luxurious, vivacious description. Throughout the novel he described mental states in a riveting way as well. He said someone had thoughts going round and round in his head like pieces of meat boiling in a stew, and I kept repeating that to myself so I wouldn’t forget such a great metaphor.
The third thing that struck me was the beautiful liturgy that Aleister Crowley put in, with each verse ending “I adore you evoe, I adore you IAO.” He has Louise saying a verse of it every so often for a whole chapter, interspersed with the rest. I felt like running straight into a temple and saying it as the liturgy, because the poetry was so good. Jason Miller and other magicians often use ‘IAO’ in their modern rituals.
The rest of the book didn’t quite live up to the early part, and the drug addiction theme was quite sordid, but I ploughed through the rest of it and then wrote a short story of my own called ‘Juxtaposition’ as a tribute. It had political activism instead of flying a plane, depression instead of drug addiction and following a pixie instead of falling in love. In the early versions there was a poem interspersed too- and I’ve put it back! See the earlier entry on this blog: https://candyrayblog…/juxtaposition/
After that, like Peter and Louise in the story, I became interested in True Will for a while, and I decided it was my True Will to be an artist (which in my case meant a writer.) But I did have some misgivings in case True Will was a thing for spoilt brats, because not everyone is in a position to pursue it, and you are lucky if you can, today just as much as in Aleister Crowley’s day.
So, that’s the kind of effect his writing can have.
This article is also on the Occult Corpus forum blog, where I have a lot of readers