Over three days back in April 1904 AD (had to do the ‘AD’) Aleister Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis which was to become the central Holy Book of his forthcoming religious-spiritual system, Thelema. Today is therefore a celebration of sorts for some Thelemites. Since Uncle Alick has sadly become so associated with the Golden Dawn, I thought I’d take the opportunity to cut and paste a little bit I wrote as an appendix to a lecture on the GD I once gave. It may annoy some folk and I am happy to take comments and criticisms. But please don’t flame me, roast me, toast me or parboil me. Thanks 🙂
It is sadly inevitable that often when the Golden Dawn is mentioned the name Aleister Crowley arises. Many people who have not researched the subject and a few who have and who should know better, seem to think that Crowley’s work and that of the Golden Dawn are pretty much the same. While it is true, like nearly all magicians and occultists of the early 20th century, Crowley based his work upon the Golden Dawn there is no official and no spiritual connection between Crowley and the Golden Dawn. The aims of Thelema – the religion and magical system Crowley created – and the Golden Dawn are poles apart, and Crowley himself acknowledged this clearly. Naturally he assumed his work replaced the Golden Dawn in what he called the New Aeon. He also articulated without doubt that his new current was antagonistic towards the ‘older’ Golden Dawn and would seek to destroy it.
Crowley was only briefly involved in the Golden Dawn – a matter of three years really. He was refused initiation into the magical Inner Order by his own lodge and was only initiated in another lodge as part of an internal political power struggle. He effectively left the Order shortly after receiving this initiation. He received none of the higher adept degrees or training. What limited Inner Order texts he had were mostly copies supplied by his friend Alan Bennett.
Whilst Crowley’s intellect and energy cannot be doubted, his understanding of the Golden Dawn was limited. For example, he commented that the four outer Elemental Grades were of ‘little magical interest, value or importance’, a mistake often repeated by other magicians since. In reality these four grades provide the bedrock and the framework for the inner order work of transforming the magician and building a life based on light, love and service. It is during these grades the magician’s ego and self-focus is worked upon and purified. Crowley wrote in his dairy that he was still having difficulty with his ego years after these grades, when he had in fact assumed the initiatory equivalent of Christ himself.
The main difficulty with Crowley’s work being equated with the Golden Dawn is that it is based upon and infused with corruption arising from the man Crowley himself, not the higher principles. Crowley’s holy books of Thelema glorify his hatred of Christianity, stemming from his Plymouth Brethern upbringing; adherent’s to his system faced (and some still do) his home rather the traditional direction of light, the East; he added an extra degree to the traditional OTO Order that utilised anal sex, simply because he was fond of sodomising and being sodomised.
This changing and adapting and innovating from the established esoteric sources of wisdom for personal reasons has no part in traditional spirituality. And Crowley the individual, the personality, was not the sort of person to invite home to mother. His petty viciousness, sexual dysfunction, bitter misogyny and colonial racism runs through his spiritual systems. What commonality they have with the Golden Dawn is purely surface based. The Golden Dawn is committed to expressing love to all in the service of God. Crowley makes it clear that service is not an option, that others can look after themselves and there is no God but man. Thus the two, the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley, cannot be reconciled.