Return of The Beast
by David Tibet
One of the most noticeable trends in our exciting music scene has been the return to the fore of the big bad Beast 666, - Sir Aleister Crowley, (1878-1947 R.I.P.)
Proof of the cynical nature of events in the Pop Biz, the last time Mr. Crowley found favour was in stoned-hippy late-60s and early 80s, when he vied for attention with Krishna, Yin-Yang and God knows what else. Now he's back with a vengeance it seems.
It seems that many bands, unable to project an image that is even remotely interesting because of their complete emptiness, have clambered on to the good ship image of Aleister Crowley. The method is simple - find a charismatic and uncompromising individual and imply that she or he is the inspiration and guidance behind the band, then project the image on this basis 'Basically I don't have anything to say, but as we are interested in Aleister Crowley, we must be pretty weird, don't you think?'
A sinister murmur of 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of The Law', pan to skeletons and grinning demons, wear lots of black, load up with large numbers of black crosses (a la hippy) and, hey presto, a new movement: Positive Punk, with bands that are old enough to have been hippies the first time around anyway.
Crowley's ideas and imagery have influenced bands from every generation. The most obvious are Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Graham Bond (who claimed to be one of Crowley's illegitimate sons met his personal Abyss under a tube train), Led Zep, King Crimson, Toyah, Blood And Roses, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Killing Joke and Sex Gang Children. There was also a short-lived outfit called Order Of The Golden Dawn and Haysi have a track on their LP called 'Here Comes The Beast'.
Jimmy Page of Led Zep is probably the most renowned Crowleyite in rock. He owns Crowley's old house in Boleskine on the shores of Loch Ness and was almost single-handedly responsible for the rise in value of Crowley's work in the early 70's. Page bought up everything to do with Crowley that went on to the market - he even had a person employed full time to go to auctions and bid for Crowley items.
Eventually he opened a shop in Kensington High Street called 'Equinox' to sell Crowley's writings (now closed). He started his own publishing company to put out books by Crowley and other such authors.
Black Sabbath used Crowleyan and Satanic imagery as early as 1969. The Satanic atmosphere was always heavy in their work, thunder, lightening and rain lashing Ozzy Osbourne as he wails 'What is this that stands before me? Figure in black that points at me… OH NOOOO, God please help me!' After Ozzy left Sabbath he got further into the Satan trip, biting off bats' heads and doing songs titled 'Mr.Crowley'. As he got more over the top he went more downhill…
Graham Bond, claiming direct descendence from the seed of the Great Beast himself, recorded an album of Holy Magick ritual, complete with pentagram.
Throbbing Gristle used Crowley's imagery and theories on power to drive their walls of sound and noise. Genesis P-Orridge would chant 'love is the law' in a tone of marvellous understatement in their almost hit-single 'United'. P-Orridge was always totally open about the primary influence Crowley and William Burroughs had on TG's work. At same the time, he never played them to death or attempted to convert his passions and obsessions into cheap publicity.
Unlike Toyah. Desperately grabbing any ploy to draw attention to her outstandingly boring work, she simpered about sleeping in coffins (weally shocking!) and that she read Crowley's 'Devil's Bible' (pathetic). She would then launch into such happy gibberings as 'found myself in a neon womb'. Far out.
Killing Joke captured the apocalyptic feel of Crowley's most important work, 'The Book Of The Law', in their stunning 'The Fall Of The Because' (an expression taken from that book). Singer Jaz and drummer Paul influenced the Joke Crowley-wise, but without name dropping at every opportunity. The sleeve of 'Follow The Leaders' depicted a procession holding aloft Crowley's self-designed Tarot pack. Eventually Jaz went to Iceland to seek the company of Peyr (Fear), a group with similar dark interests.
Meanwhile, a flash of lightening on a lonely moor reveals Blood And Roses, complete with 'beautiful' audience, chanting the odd 'Necromantra'. Their 'Love Under Will' sports Gothic skeletons on the sleeve and a spiel which starts and ends with Crowley's most well-known phrases - 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of The Law' and 'Love is the Law, Love under Will'. Blood And Roses had nothing to do with it, they say. The hippies keep marching on.
Crowley seems so popular with the uninspired image-seekers because he generated much powerful imagery. Symbols are ready-made and waiting for those with little respect for Crowley and their audience. Magick became this year's big thing. The punks that started off despising hippies gradually turned into the very thing they hated, while deluding themselves they were being revolutionary and shocking. An intelligent article on Crowley in Sounds by Sandy Robertson was unwittingly responsible for a lot of crap to come. Readers were presented with a perfect anti-hero who took drugs (in vast quantities!) And Got Noticed. He was WEIRD. Suddenly the Posi-Punk bands were competing with the Heavy Metal brigade (Witchfinder General - Ha Ha!) to see who could cram the most Satans and symbols on their sleeves. A Sounds headline announced 'The Magic And The Mystery of the New Punks'. This seemed to consist of wearing a top hat and having long hair, albeit spiked up (still long hair though).
From flares to bondage trousers, from patchouli oil to glue sniffing. Both sets of hippies ended up in Magick.
'I'm closer to the Golden Dawn, immersed in Crowley's uniform of imagery' ('Quicksand' - David Bowie)
'Love is the law, love is the law, united, united' ('United' - Throbbing Gristle)
'666, The Number of the Beast, 666' ('Number Of The Beast' - Iron Maiden)
'Wooh yeah, Mr Crowley, yeah, awlright!' ('Mr Crowley' - Ozzy Osbourne)
And they're just some of the people who were impressed by Aleister Crowley.
"I'm involved in a long-term selling campaign of one of the century's most misunderstood geniuses - Aleister Crowley." Thus said Kenneth Anger, American cult underground film-maker, who based most of his work on Crowley.
Obviously Crowley seems to have meant a great deal to a large number of people. His name is cited as a major influence in the artistic (!) world every seven years or so.
We bring you a quick potted history of the Wickedest Man Who Ever Lived - Aleister Crowley, aka The Great Best, Alestor, The Spirit of Solitude, Baphomet, The Antichrist, Frater Perdurabo, Count Svareff, Prince Chioa Kahn, The Supreme and Holy King of Ireland, Iona, and all the Britons that are within the Sanctuary of the Gnosis, OTO.
He was born Edward Alexander Crowley in 1875 into an extremist fundamentalist Christian sect, the Plymouth Brethren, who believed that the Bible was literally true. Crowley's parents tried to instill in him the same ideas that they held so holy, but he soon rebelled. To show his dislike of their hypocritical Victorian morality he seduced his mother's chambermaid in her own bedroom.
"You little beast", she scolded. If his mother was to call him a beast, he might as well make a good job of it.
The most famous beast of all was the one mentioned by St. John the Divine in his Book Of Revelations - Crowley practically knew the Bible by heart, as it was one of the few books that he was allowed to read. Crowley was very interested in the Bible, but his sympathies were all with the other side, the Enemy, and not at all with the pale Galilean and his flock. Crowley had decided to become a Somebody.
He attended several schools, unhappy in all of them. He developed a passion for rock climbing and mountaineering and became an expert. Through this involvement he got involved with The Golden Dawn, a large and secretive magical order based in London, which he joined at the age of 23, rising rapidly through the various ascending grades.
Crowley soon fell out with the rest of the Order, who he felt did not appreciate his genius. They thought he was a lunatic. He then got on the wrong side of the Golden Dawn head, MacGregor Mathers.
Having fallen out with the Order - and publishing all their secret rituals in his magazine The Equinox, Crowley went on to form his own magical society, The A.A.
He was still unsatisfied - he had had a great deal of excitement, seduced a good number of women and started experimenting with numerous drugs to 'part the veils of the mind'. But he did not yet feel he had done anything of magical significance.
The event that was to change his life took place on April 8, 9 and 10, 1904. While in Cairo with his wife, Rose, he received a message he believed to be from 'a messenger of those forces ruling the earth at present'. The messenger called himself Aiwaz and said he had been sent by Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the Egyptian God of War. The message that Aiwaz delivered - in the form of a chapter each day - was a prose poem entitled 'The Book Of The Law'. The messenger announced that this was to be the new Bible for a New Age, which would see Christianity overthrown along with all the other 'slave religions'.
Although it took Crowley some time to accept this text due to the extreme violence of imagery and action portrayed in it, it is in these writings, also sometimes called Liber Al Vel Legis, that are the true basis of the Crowley legend and the source upon which his followers were to base their belief. It's message was simple. 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of The Law'- act in whatever way you feel the true you should act. 'Love is the Law, Love under will' - that such action should be accomplished through the use of love and the power of The Will.
The Book Of The Law announced the beginning of a New Order for mankind and proclaimed that 'Every man and woman is a star' - that everyone has the potential to become a God.
The final chapter implied that the transition fro the Old Age of Christianity to the New Age 'of Horus' would probably involve bloodshed. After Crowley had accepted this, he spent the rest of his life attempting to push the message of The Book. He practically gave up his mountaineering and exploration and set up an abbey in Sicily, where he tried to start a community living according to the Law of Thelema, the name he gave to the message in The Book. The Abbey was not too successful: one person died after Crowley reputedly made him drink cat's blood, although this was, in fact, diseased water. Another went insane, living naked on top of a hill and refusing to wash.
Rumours abounded to such an extent that eventually Mussolini expelled Crowley from Sicily.
Crowley also pushed an ancient idea that sex could be used for magical purposes. His spelling of 'Magick' with a 'k' hinted at this. Amongst other more specific sexual meanings, 'k' has a value of 11, which is the number of magic and the moon, the feminine principle in magic. Crowley beleived that the quantity and quality of power and energy released during sex was so great that if the energy could be controlled through the correct magickal rituals, the magickian could cause 'change to occur in conformity with will'. This belief is the other central idea in Crowley's magick. The use of sex in a magickal fashion was carried out in another organisation which Crowley headed - the O.T.O. which is still in existence today, with headquarters at a secret location in London.
However, Crowley's time as a generator of ideas were running out. His earlier experiments with drugs of all sorts - opium, cocaine, laudanum, hashish, alcohol and so on - had enabled him to experience many visions which he believed to either have magical significance for him or to offer magical guidance to him. It was not the same with heroin, which was prescribed to him by a Harley Street doctor to combat his asthma, which worsened after his mountaineering expeditions. He was unable to rid himself of this addiction, though he tried often. He built up a huge tolerance eventually injecting up to 60 times the normal dosage - enough to kill a roomful of people.
He died alone in a small bedroom in Hastings in 1947 and was cremated soon afterwards.
The Beast was dead, but he was to receive more publicity and gain more followers, after his death, than during his wandering life.
The funeral ceremony at Brighton was celebrated with a reading of Crowley's 'Hymn To Pan':
'And I rave, and I rape and I rip and I rend,
"I am The Beast, I am the Word of the Aeon. I spend my soul in blazing torrents that roar into night, streams that with molten tongues hiss as they lick."
Aleister Crowley - dead but not forgotten. We shall be hearing more, we shall be hearing more ...
David Tibet, Flexipop No. 666, 1983
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