Follow up Post to the time to Get over Crowley post

Posted on June 9, 2008
Filed Under Experiments, Magic | 20 Comments

In her latest post on the Crowley movie, Psyche says:

“Ellwood seemed pleased the movie received a terrible review because he hates Crowley…I hear this sentiment [She’s quoting my post where I mention his claim to fame is publishing the GD rites and also his showmanship] a fair bit from people who have not actually read much Crowley and are therefore unfamiliar or unaware of the influence he’s had on magickal thought and practice – “hero-worship” rather misses the point.”

In point of fact, I don’t actually hate Crowley. I just don’t think what he’s put out there is nearly as impressive as other people seem to think it is. I’m actually quite familiar with Crowley’s work, having read Gems From the Equinox, The Book of the Law, Book Four (Parts 1 – 4), Moonchild, Liber 777, Magick in Theory and Practice, and The Book of Lies. And even after reading all of that I’m just not as impressed as others are with his work (As is evidenced by my post where I showed the problems in his definition of magic). Do I think he has valuable things to say? Certainly. I also think he’s been dead for a long time, and other people have written works that are equally as valuable but often ignored or not known about, because in Western ceremonial magic, the buck seems to stop at Crowley. A good example would be Pascal Beverly Randolph who’s work, as I mentioned in my post about the movie review, was essentially plagiarized by Crowley with no reference back to his work (and yes I have heard actual Thelemites, and ex-Thelemites admit that this was the case).

I don’t hate Crowley. What I do hate is the often uncritical acceptance of him, and unwillingness to look at other works by other authors. What I hate is how so much focus is put on Crowley and how he did so much for magic, and how much other people and their contributions have been ignored because OMG Crowley!!! There are some people who even try to emulate his practices and life as much as possible, instead of developing their own practices. And this is where, yes there is hero-worship. Some people get so focused on what Crowley did and how wonderful they think his writings are, etc, etc…and I begin to wonder if they have original thoughts of their own, or have done anything with their practice which isn’t just an emulation of what Crowley did.

I know some people argue that Crowley defined magic and that no one can surpass his accomplishments, and that bothers me as well, because if seventies years after the death of someone, you haven’t seen genuine progress in a discipline, or people haven’t come along and offered something substantive that continues to push that discipline in new directions, then that discipline is dead. At that point, why bother doing anything new? And that’s what I hate…that people venerate him to such a degree that the potential for genuine progress is that much lessened…because hey if so and so is such a bad ass magician, I’ll never compare to him. They shouldn’t be comparing themselves to him in the first place. What they should be doing is getting what they can out of his works and ALSO reading and practicing what others did, while also developing their own practices.

I think Crowley was a person much like anyone else who has his share of experiences and occult adventures. I think he had a lot of courage to write what he did in the era that he wrote in. I also think that he did some questionable practices, such as plagiarizing the work of others. And in the end, I think that while it’s important to acknowledge that he’s had some influence on Western magic, and continues to this very day, it’s also time to start focusing on what others have done and written and learn from their works and experiences. Crowley was just one person, and unlike others I disagree that he’s defined magic or set an unsurpassable record. He’s offered a perspective on magic, but there are others. He did some impressive magical work, but if you’re doing it right than so have you.

I don’t hate Crowley. I just hate his influence. I hate that it discourages genuine progress. I hate that people are so wrapped in what he did that they can’t look at his work in a balanced manner, and they don’t look at the works of other people, because they think that nothing else that anyone wrote had value compared to Crowley. And they don’t try to do anything on their own, because they don’t think it has value, unless what they’re doing is what Crowley did. And that’s why it’s time to get over the hero worship.

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