by Harmony Pax
Crowley’s New Aeon
A few months ago, my friend and I decided to join a magical meetup. While discussing interesting topics, I noticed that some people there were talking about shedding the old aeon, which contained world prophets such as Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. The new aeon is supposed to be associated with the age of Aquarius, a time period when the sun is supposed to rise in the sign of Aquarius on the spring equinox.
I knew about Crowley’s idea of the new age, and I knew that this philosophy came from ‘The Vision and the Voice’. But because very few groups use other concepts from that book, such as the Alphabet of Arrows or the 12 fold table of OIT, I was surprised to see that this concept was emphasized. I noticed that Crowley wanted to equate the old aeon with so called axial age thinkers, but the axial age didn’t happen outside of interconnected countries in Europe and Asia, so how could it be a human universal?
My friend and I had both been raised without religion, so we wondered, how could we repudiate something we had never believed in? Moreover, Liber Librae tells us: “In true religion there is no sect, therefore take heed that thou blaspheme not the name by which another knoweth his God.” I found this to be confusing.
The idea of a new age was a popular topic in Crowley’s era. Many early 20th century thinkers, ranging from those in New Thought and Theosophy to mainstream thinkers like Spengler and Marx, believed that Western society was entering a new age. This new age could either be a golden age, or it could be an iron age.
New Aeon & Old Aeon: Looking Back through History
Today, historians no longer view history in this way. This was considered not only reductionistic and outdated, but culturally chauvinistic. This is not a minority view, it was hammered home in almost every history class that I took, ranging from the introductory AP US history to college level classes.
First, the idea of an axial age centers European and to an extent Asian history. Karl Jasper created the theory to question why thinkers like Buddha and Zoroaster had similar ideas to the early Christians. Eventually, Jaspers himself repudiated the idea. It is historically attested that the Greco Roman world had extensive trade with Iran, India and China. If Crowley’s aeonic concept were true, then the axial age would have emerged in the Americas and Oceania around 1 AD. It did not, which shows that a supposed astronomically induced new aeon either missed the majority of the planet or is simply not true.
Secondly, I think that Thelema has enough to offer without trying to shoehorn one’s mind into Crowley’s aeon concept. Up to 30% of Americans no longer profess a religion. They are not raising their children in religion either. The 1950s idea that most Americans are Protestants, Catholics and Jews is no longer relevant. What then? If a young person comes to Thelema, and they’re not raised with either religious, racist, or sexist indoctrination, are they supposed to overcome these ideas and become a bigoted bible (or liber) thumper? Like if their mother is a lawyer should they try to repudiate the idea of the legal system?
I think that Thelema has enough to offer everyone, regardless of their background. I’ve always believed that the new aeon was a personal state that an individual entered owing to the practice of Thelemic spirituality, rather than a concept that was a human universal. The Aeon card in Crowley’s Tarot deck replaces the Last Judgment card in most other decks. It is attributed to shin, the path which connects Malkuth, the body, and Hod, the rational mind.
In it, you can see Crowley’s pantheon layered together in primary, elemental colors, and the aspirants rising in the form of the Hebrew letter shin. Shin is often seen as the representation of spirit, rising from the four elements. The new aeon is spiritual and individual. To distort history in order to achieve one’s personal ideal is to “willingly and knowingly reject truth” because it “doesn’t pander to their prejudices”.
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