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Aleister Crowley on Race: An Overview

Aleister Crowley on Race: An Overview

by Antonio Lau

According to Lois G. Gordon, when Nancy Cunard met Aleister Crowley in 1933, her “extensive recollections of their meetings, including their participation at anti-fascist rallies and his consistent ‘anger against the persecution of the Jews and other ghastly events,’ convinced her that he ‘felt deeply about human injustice and public danger.’ ” [from Gordon’s Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist.]

So why do so many people today insist that he was a racist and a white supremacist? Merriam-Webster defines racism as: “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” So, based on the following literary evidence, we have to ask ourselves: Was Crowley really a “racist”?

At the end of 1905, Crowley and family entered China from Burma by way of Tengyueh. Crowley was advised by George Litton, the British consul of China in Tengyueh, that “One cannot fraternize with the Chinese of the lower classes; one must treat them with absolute contempt and callousness. On the other hand the Chinese gentleman is the noblest and courtliest in the world. His general bearing is that of Athos in The Three Musketeers, at his best. One’s relations with him should be those of absolute mutual respect; and here again, intimacy of any kind is impossible. Each man abides on pinnacles of isolation.”

Some of Crowley’s more recent detractors, who obviously didn’t bother to read that entire chapter of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, have taken it upon themselves to inform their equally ignorant readers that Crowley himself was here instructing his students to treat “Chinese of the lower classes with absolute contempt and callousness.” In fact, they seem to have abandoned all logic and somehow turned “Chinese of the lower classes” into all Chinese people throughout the world, and even completely ignored Crowley’s follow up: “On the other hand the Chinese gentleman is the noblest and courtliest in the world,” even though it was literally the very next sentence. Soon after he writes: “We met with a warm welcome at the consulate from Litton’s Chinese wife, an exceedingly beautiful woman with perfect manners. They had five charming children.” And so forth.

Here are a few more things Crowley actually had to say, in his own words, about the Chinese: “I realized instantly their spiritual superiority to the Anglo-Saxon, and my own deep-seated affinity to their point of view.” Later, when he met the Tao Tai of Yunchang, he wrote:

The mandarin was one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen. I use the word beautiful in its strictly aesthetic sense. He was, I judge, between thirty-five and forty years old; his features were astonishingly perfect and their expression full of noble intelligence and lofty benevolence, harmonized by a placidity due to a consciousness of his superiority so unbroken and unquestioned that it had been absorbed into subconsciousness. He was a miracle of art and that art perfectly concealed. His complexion had more than the smoothness of the most exquisite southern European types; yet all this impeccability of excellence was not marred, as is too often the case with Greek sculpture, but lacking that touch of the bizarre which Goethe postulates as essential to supreme beauty. He possessed that peace which I believe is intended to inform images of the Buddha, but which nearly always appears as a mere lack of any positive passion. The mandarin of Yunchang radiated royalty.

In Liber ABA, he states, “Lao Tze is one of our best examples of a man who went away and had a mysterious experience; perhaps the best of all examples, as his system is the best of all systems.” And Lao Tze (Lao-tsu/Laozi) was Chinese. Crowley took pride in his belief that he was the reincarnation of Ko Hsuan (Ge Xuen). Here he speaks of himself in the third person:

There has always been something suggesting the oriental — Chinese or ancient Egyptian — in Alick’s personal appearance. As his mother at school had been called “the little Chinese girl”, so his daughter, Lola Zaza, has the Mongolian physiognomy even more pronounced. His thought follows this indication. He has never been able to sympathize with any European religion or philosophy; and of Jewish or Mohammedan thought he has assimilated only the mysticism of the Cabbalists and the Sufis. Even Hindu psychology, thoroughly as he studied it, never satisfied him wholly. As will be seen, Buddhism itself failed to win his devotion. But he found himself instantly at home with the Yi King and the writings of Lao Tzu. Strangely enough, Egyptian symbolism and magical practice made an equal appeal; incompatible as these two systems appear on the surface, the one being atheistic, anarchistic and quietistic, the other theistic, hierarchical and active. Even at this period the East called to him.

Alick was his childhood nickname, and “at this period” refers to him as an 11 year old boy. However, much of his interests described in this quote were not known to him until over a decade later. And in one last quote regarding the Chinese influence, he writes: “We crossed to Tangiers without delay and I reveled once more and rejoiced to feel myself back among the only people on earth with whom I have ever felt any human affinity. My spiritual self is at home in China, but my heart and my hand are pledged to the Arab.” His adoration of Arabs is so well known that there is no point in quoting all the things he wrote praising them, but these words hardly seem to be the sentiments of a white supremacist.

Regarding Mexicans, Crowley wrote:

I found myself spiritually at home with Mexicans. They despise industry and commerce. Their spirit is brave and buoyant; it had not been poisoned by hypocrisy and the struggle for life.

The maximum of romance and pleasure is to be found in Mexico, even in the quite small provincial towns. It is full of men and women; all seem young and all are charming, spontaneous and ready to make any desired kind of love.

There is no false shame, no contamination by ideas of commerce and material matters in general. There is no humbug about purity, uplift, idealism, or any such nonsense. I cannot hope to express the exquisite pleasure of freedom. One’s spontaneity was not destroyed by anticipations of all sorts of difficulty in finding a friend of any desired type, obstacles in the way of consummating the impulse, and unpleasantness in the aftermath. The problem of sex, which has reduced Anglo-Saxon nations to hysteria and insanity, has been solved in Mexico by the co-operation of climate and cordiality.

Against this we have: “…hashish, which excites certain types of Arab, Indian, Malay or Mexican to indiscriminate murder, whose motive is often religious insanity, has no such effect on quietly disposed, refined and philosophical people, especially if they happen to possess the faculty of self-analysis.” Once again, Crowley detractors conveniently ignore or omit important qualifying phrases such as “certain types” from their thoughts, along with the qualifying mention of religious insanity added to the mix.

But in all fairness, once we get into other races and ethnicities, Crowley’s words do become more damaging to his own reputation, especially to those who are already quick to take offense any chance they can get. For example, let us look at the slur usually reserved for African-Americans these days: the N-bomb.

In 1943, Crowley began a project of sharing letters with Soror Fiat Yod (Anne Macky), in order to eventually produce a book. Magick Without Tears wasn’t published until 1954, and although Karl Germer is credited as the official editor, Phyllis Seckler would later claimed to have done most of the work. I have no idea who actually came up with the titles that had come to be attached to these letters, but the letter that became Chapter 73 is considered the most offensive by far. But here we have another case in which those who have been so outraged by the title obviously didn’t bother to read the letter/chapter. They cry: “He called Blacks and Jews a bunch of monsters!” No, he didn’t. The “monster” was a reference to Joseph Merrick (more famously known as the Elephant Man), who Sir Frederick Treves met in a penny gaff shop on Whitechapel Road. Crowley points out that Merrick “seems to have been a most charming individual” and goes on to state that it is white cowards in the American South who were so terrified of Black people that Lynch Law prevailed, just as the white New Yorker had severe mob-rule phobias against the Irish in politics, the Italians in crime and the Jews in finance. According to Sabazius X°: “In Chapter 73 of Magick Without Tears, we find Crowley himself explaining how racism and classism are both rooted in fear, and how they bring out the worst in people.”

He almost always used the word “Negro” when referring to the African-American, which was the politically correct term at the time. True, he did use it as a slur against a Bengali once: “The doctor was a Bengali named Ram Lal Sircar, a burly n****r of the most loathsome type. I am not fond of Bengalis at the best and he as the worst specimen of his race I have ever seen.” In Diary of a Drug Fiend, Peter Pendragon says, “we always somehow instinctively think of the Italian as a n****r. We don’t call them ‘dagos’ and ‘wops’ as they do in the United States, with the invariable epithet of ‘dirty’; but we have the same feeling.” Peter Pendragon is a fictional character modeled after Cecil Maitland. This is like saying that Quentin Tarantino hates Sicilians and Black people because of something his character says in True Romance. Crowley liked all his neighbors at Cefalu, and seemed to think they felt the same way about him.

Crowley also used the N word about a handful more times. But compare this to that song by Patti Smith on her Easter album; she used the word more times in 3 minutes than Crowley used in his entire published works. Quentin Tarantino used the N word more times in 30 seconds on Pulp Fiction than Crowley did in over 900 pages of The Confessions. Sarah Silver repeats the N word repeatedly in Jesus is Magic with total impunity, and dressed in blackface on her own show while mocking Queen Latifah. One of Crowley’s contemporaries was Agatha Christie; her novel Ten Little Ni***rs is the world’s bestselling mystery novel, and the fifth bestselling novel of all time. Although the title was changed for America, it stayed the same in the UK until 1985. Christie’s other works are filled with derogatory references toward Jews, Asians, Italians, Native Americans and Arabs. Before that, Joseph Conrad wrote a book called The N****r of the Narcissus, which is considered one of Conrad’s most significant pieces of non-fiction writing. Al Jolson, the famous Jewish singer and actor, is well known for his blackface performance in 1927’s Jazz Singer, and the minstrel shows were widely popular in the UK up until the mid-1970s. In 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono try to defend the title of their song Woman is the N****r of the World in a television show where Lennon even tries to justify it by saying that his Black friends told him he should use the word.

Crowley had a recurrent male sexual partner in New York named Walter Gray, an African-American jazz musician; he had a short romance with Bella de Costa Greene; he greatly admired the African-American boxer Joe Jeanette for his beauty and strength; he also once wrote that Alexandre Dumas the greatest novelist that ever lived, well aware that Dumas was a quarter African. When Crowley met Maria Teresa de Miramar, she claimed that she was a Creole Cuban, and he married her.

Despite previous failures in both Berlin and London, Crowley sought a play or film deal for Mortadello. Asked to produce the play, athlete, actor, scholar, and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898-1976) smiled and politely shook his head; he later confided in Cammell, “There are certain lines and gestures which the British public would not care to see enacted between a Negro and a white woman. As for the American stage, why, if I were to produce it there, somebody in the audience would stand up and shoot me with a revolver.” (Tobias Churton, The Beast in Berlin)

Of course, none of this is an attempt to ignore, or condone, or dismiss Crowley’s use of the word, especially when he was using it specifically to be obnoxious. However, it certainly shows that it wasn’t simply a product of Victorian times, but the type of attitudes listed above were typical and carried far into late 20th Century among the general media in English speaking countries. Even after his death in 1947, racism became an even bigger problem in both the US and the UK, nearly as bad as it was a hundred years before.

Even if Crowley was “racist” by any definition, he was surely not a white supremacist who hated people with dark skin. Quite the opposite. Just outside of Mayurbhanj [a district in the Odisha state of eastern India], he found himself greatly impressed by the inhabitants of a village he passed on the way to China.

The men are armed with bows and arrows, or occasionally spears, some of which show great skill of metallurgy and workmanship as well as a knowledge of certain branches of mechanics, and a marked sense of beauty. The women are free from the ordinary Hindu inhibitions, and their breasts are the most beautiful that I have ever seen, not excepting those of the women of Tehuantepec… Men and women alike are admirably proportioned, muscular and active… The skin is of that superb velvety black with is really rich deep purple. Primitive as these people are, they are as capable of aesthetics as the popes and princes of the Renaissance.

Note “The skin is of that superb velvety black with is really rich deep purple. Primitive as these people are, they are as capable of aesthetics as the popes and princes of the Renaissance.”

Here’s another great quote used against him:

As to Colombo, I love it and loathe it with nicely balanced enthusiasm. Its climate is chronic; its architecture is an unhappy accident; its natives are nasty, the men with long hair cooped up by a comb, smelling of fish, the women with waists bulging black between coat and skirt, greasy with coconut oil, and both chewing betel and spitting it out till their teeth ooze with red and the streets look like shambles; its English are exhausted and enervated. The Eurasians are anaemic abortions; the burghers — Dutch halfcasts — stolid squareheads; the Portuguese piebalds sly sneaks, vicious, venal, vermiform villains. The Tamils are black but not comely. The riff-raff of rascality endemic in all ports is here exceptionally repulsive. The highwater mark of social tone, moral elevation, manners and refinement is attained by the Japanese ladies of pleasure.

In the matter of religion, the Hindus are (as everywhere else) servile, shallow, cowardly and hypocritical; though being mostly Shaivites, adoring frankly the power of Procreation and Destruction, they are less loathsome than Vishnavites, who cringe before a fetish who promises them Preservation and (as Krishna) claims to be the Original of which Christ is a copy.

The Christians are, of course, obscene outcasts from even the traditional tolerance of their clan; they have accepted Jesus with the promise of a job, and gag conscience with assurance of atonement, or chloroform superstitious terrors by ruminating on redemption. The Buddhists are sodden with their surfeit of indigestible philosophy and feebly flaunt a fluttering formula of which the meaning is forgotten; the debauchery of devil dances, the pointless profession of Pansil (the Five Precepts of the Buddha), the ceremonial coddling of shrines as old maids coddle cats, voluble veneration and rigmarole religion: such is the threadbare tinsel which they throw over the nakedness of their idleness, immorality and imbecility.

Indians plausibly maintain that some god got all the worst devils into Ceylon, and then cut it off from the continent by the straits.

It should be noticed “The Tamils are black but not comely”. Comely is defined as “pleasant to look at; attractive.” It is apparent that he assumed his reader would automatically agree that black skin is very attractive. The last sentence in this quote is highly significant, as it implies that even the rest of India felt the same way. So rather than this be taken as a racial tirade of white supremacy, it should just be compared the same feeling that one gets every time they step into a Walmart in Anytown, USA. Note his disparagement of Krishna, who he also happened to make a Gnostic Saint in Liber XV, and considered to be one of the 7 Magi of history in Liber Aleph. [In fact, note that not one of the other Magi are European or British; the closest is Dionysus of Greek myth, who was said to have actually originated from Asia.] Immediately after the above quote, he follows with:

But then, how rich, how soft, how peaceful is Colombo! One feels that one needs never do anything anymore. It invites one to dream deliciously of deciduous joys — and insists, with velvet hand, light and bright as a butterfly’s wing, on the eyelids. The palms, the flowers, the swooning song of the surf, the dim and delicate atmosphere heavy with sensuous scents, the idle irresponsible people, purring with placid pleasure; they seem musicians in an orchestra, playing a nocturne by some oriental Chopin unconscious of disquieting realities.

Soon after, upon meeting Ponnambalam Ramanathan (who was Tamil), he had this to say about him: “The Solicitor-Generral of Ceylon, the Hon. P. Ramanathan, engaged Allan as private tutor to his younger sons. This gentleman was a man of charming personality, wide culture and profound religious knowledge.” So anything bad Crowley had to say about Indians, Bengali and Tamil had nothing to do with their race or ethnicity. To this I add another quote about his trip to India:

The rock temples of Madura are probably the finest in India, perhaps in the world. There seems no limit. Corridor after corridor extends its majestic sculptures, carved monoliths, with august austerity. They are the more impressive that the faith which created them is as vital today, as when India was at the height of its political power. My experiences of Yoga stood me in good stead… But as soon as they found that I was really expert in Yoga, they lost no time in making friends. One man in particular spoke English well and was himself a great authority on Yoga. He introduced me to the writings of Sabapati Swami, whose instructions are clear and excellent, and his method eminently practical. My friend introduced me to the authorities at the bid temple at Madura, and I was allowed to enter some of the secret shrines, in one of which I sacrificed a goat to Bhavani.

And of course, Swami Vivekananda was one of the greatest influences on his life. Crowley is also accused of being against miscegenation. Again, quite the opposite:

The prejudice against half-castes requires analysis. It is not the mixture of blood, as a rule, that makes the majority of them such degraded specimens of humanity, but the circumstances usually attending their birth. These circumstances, again, are due to the crass imbecility of public morality. There is no doubt, however, that some races make better combinations than others. The best class of Englishman and the best class of Chinese mingle admirably, provided (of course) that the children are brought up decently in an environment where they are not handicapped from the first by feeling themselves objects of dislike and contempt. Nothing is worse for children than to be humiliated; they should be brought up to realize that they are “kings and priests unto God.”

Any mixed race individual in America, to this day, can relate to the above statements “provided (of course) that the children are brought up decently in an environment where they are not handicapped from the first by feeling themselves objects of dislike and contempt” and “Nothing is worse for children than to be humiliated,” which is too often the case. Although I disagree about some races making better combinations than others and notions about “best” classes, it is very true that when a half-white child is seen in public with their white parent, it all too often invites the most repulsive of unsolicited microaggressions possible. Especially if the mother is white, and her child is obviously half Black or Asian. There are several books and online articles available outlining the many difficulties these children face, even now, 50 years after all the anti-miscegenation laws have been ruled unconstitutional in the United States. However, if we change “best class” to “those who have much better opportunities to live in better neighborhoods and access to better schools with higher rates of racial diversity” there is definitely something there. Elsewhere, Crowley elaborates:

I am not a snob or a puritan, but Eurasians do get on my nerves. I do not believe that their universally admitted baseness is due to a mixture of blood or the presumable peculiarity of their parents; but that they are forced into vileness by the attitude of both their white and coloured neighbours… Even the highest-class Eurasians such as Ananda Koomaraswamy suffer acutely from the shame of being considered outcast. The irrationality and injustice of their neighbours heightens the feeling and it breeds the very abominations which the snobbish inhumanity of their fellow-men expects of them.

It should be apparent to even the most rabid of critics and Crowley haters that he is not placing the blame on the mixed race individual, or even race-mixing at all, but “the crass imbecility of public morality,” the “irrationality and injustice,” and “the snobbish inhumanity” of racist/white supremacist society.

A similar case is presented by the Jew, who really does only too often possess the bad qualities for which he is disliked; but they are not proper to his race. No people can show finer specimens of humanity. The Hebrew poets and prophets are sublime. The Jewish soldier is courageous, the Jewish rich man generous. The race possesses imagination, romance, loyalty, probity and humanity in an exceptional degree.

But the Jew has been persecuted so relentlessly that his survival has depended on the development of his worst qualities; avarice, servility, falseness, cunning and the rest.

The above quote is also one of those most used against Crowley. It never fails to amaze me that these people complete ignore that he wrote “No people can show finer specimens of humanity. The Hebrew poets and prophets are sublime. The Jewish soldier is courageous. The Jewish rich man generous. The race possesses imagination, romance, loyalty, probity adn humanity in an exceptional degree.” They ignore this, then accuse me of cherry-picking! It should be obvious to everyone that the above statement is not anti-Jew, but a statement about the problems of stereotypes. “They are not proper to his race.” Oscar Eckenstein, Victor Neuburg, George Raffalovich, Leon Engers Kennedy, Israel Regardie, Frederick Mellinger, John Symonds… all of these men, some of the most important and closest friends Crowley would make in his lifetime, were Jews.

Speaking of rabid critics, there is nothing more that gets both Jew and Gentile anti-Crowleyan to foam at the mouth than the following quote from Liber D (Sepher Sephiroth):

CAN any good thing come out of Palestine? is the broader anti-Semitic retort to the sneer cast by the Jews themselves against the harmless and natural Nazarene; one more example of the poetic justice of History. And no doubt such opponents of the modern Jew will acclaim this volume as an admirable disproof of that thesis which it purports to uphold.

Another line of argument is the historical. We do not here refer to the alleged forgery of the Qabalah by Rabbi Moses ben Leon — was it not? — but to the general position of the ethnologist that the Jews were an entirely barbarous race, incapable of any spiritual pursuit. That they were polytheists is clear from the very first verse of Genesis; that Adonai Melekh is identical with “Moloch” is known to every Hebraist. The “Old Testament” is mainly the history of the struggle of the phallic Jehovah against the rest of the Elohim, and that his sacrifices were of blood, and human blood at that, is indisputable.

Human sacrifices are to-day still practised by the Jews of Eastern Europe, as is set forth at length by the late Sir Richard Burton in the MS. which the wealthy Jews of England have compassed heaven and earth to suppress, and evidenced by the ever-recurring Pogroms against which so senseless an outcry is made by those who live among those degenerate Jews who are at least not cannibals.

Witness the Tipitaka (with such perfections as the Dhammapada) in the midst of peoples whose science of torture would seem to have sprung from no merely human imagination. The descriptions in the Tipitaka itself of the Buddhist Hells are merely descriptions of the actual tortures inflicted by the Buddhists on their enemies.

Again, critical thinking is completely absent from the minds of the detractors. From the beginning, he writes “the broader anti-Semitic retort” and “such opponents of the modern Jew” as if discussing a completely different set of people other than himself. The entire paragraph sounds incredibly sarcastic to me, as if to have a laugh at the expense of the typical Christian bigot. Then we get into the sensationalism of blood libel.

In 1877 Sir Richard Burton wrote Human Sacrifice among the Sephardine or the Eastern Jews based largely on the Damascus affair (1840), when a number of Jews were falsely accused of having murdered a Christian priest to use his blood in the baking of unleavened bread (matzah) for the Passover festival. As a student of the Bible since he was old enough to read, Crowley would have known about the Old Testament prohibitions against consuming blood. Burton died in 1890, with no intention of ever publishing his treatise. The manuscript somehow survived the instruction given by his widow that all his papers be burnt. An attempt to publish it at the end of the century led to its acquisition by the Jewish Deputies in 1911, with its then president promising that it would be “suppressed forever”. So it seems to me that if anything, Crowley was mocking censorship at the most, and it is extremely unlikely that he was dividing Jews into the two categories of degenerate and cannibal. It is doubtful that he ever read the manuscript; it is doubtful that it was more than a record of the hearsay going on in Damascus and devoid of any real proof; and it is doubtful that anyone of intelligence would have believed it anyway. Ironically, Burton himself said: “Had I choice of race there is none to which I would more willingly have belonged than the Jewish.” In Liber ABA part 1, Crowley mentions the subject again in passing:

The massacres of Jews in Eastern Europe which surprise the ignorant, are almost invariably excited by the disappearance of “Christian” children, stolen, as the parents suppose, for the purposes of “ritual murder.”

Note the wording, and the quotation marks surrounding Christian and ritual murder, along with with “as the parents SUPPOSE,” clear indications that these allegations against the Jews are false. Notice the reference to the Buddhist Tipitaka in Liber D quoted above, then compare it with this paragraph from The Confessions:

The general weakening of the imperial authority led to the outbreak of raids on the part of the Buddhist lamas who lived in remote serais perched upon the inaccessible crags of the mountains bordering Tibet. Bands of these monks swept down from their fastnesses to indulge in orgies of rapine, rape, murder and cannibalism. (The official descriptions of the various hells in the Buddhist canon are of course actual pictures of fact; the tortures of the damned are simply slight exaggerations of those actually inflicted by Buddhists on their enemies. In particular, it was the custom of these lamas to devour the hearts and livers of their enemies in order to acquire their vitality and courage. As I have already explained, I do not regard this as superstitious; I think it is practical common sense.)

More than anything, it seems that Crowley could not resist including sensational accounts of cannibalism whenever he got the chance. He even implies that he himself actively engaged in human sacrifice, particularly of the infanticide variety. “For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim. It appears from the Magical Records of Frater Perdurabo that He made this particular sacrifice on an average about 150 times every year between 1912 e.v. and 1928 e.v.” [Magick in Theory and Practice, Of the Bloody Sacrifice: and Matters Cognate] Of course, we all know this is really a symbolic reference to the sex magical secret of the O.T.O. and a disclaimer followed immediately after: “It is the sacrifice of oneself spiritually. And the intelligence and innocence of that male child are the perfect understanding of the Magician, his one aim, without lust of result. And male he must be, because what he sacrifices is not the material blood, but his creative power.”

At the very worst, Crowley DID once suggest that Protestant Christians, Catholics and American Jews were all vermin. It should be noted that “Protestant” is essentially synonymous with White, Anglo-Saxon, and other Northern European races, and again we should notice that Protestant, Catholic, and Jew all have the distinct connotation of religious categorization. Around the same time, he also wrote: “Let me say at once that the Jewish spirit cannot be destroyed any more than a grain of sand or an ohm of electrical resistance” and “The Jewish spirit is an essential element of humanity.” In a letter to Martha Kuntzel dated May 10, 1939, he wrote: “Almost the whole of life in Germany above brutality, stupidity and cruelty, servility and bloodthirst, was Jewish. Germans are as far below Jews, generally speaking, as monkeys below man; but I have always been fond of monkeys and I do not want to offend them by comparing any German to one.” In The Confessions, he also wrote: “[O’Brien asked] was I in favour of a square deal for Germany and Austria? I replied that I was. I have often thought how much nicer Germans and Austrians would be if they were cut up into little squares and made into soup.” And again: “The about-to-be-Black Brother constantly restricts himself; he is satisfied with a very limited ideal; he is afraid of losing his individuality—reminds one of the ‘Nordic’ twaddle about ‘race-pollution.’ ” And: “In—shall I say ‘Anglo-Saxondom,’ or ‘Teutonic breeds,’ or ‘bourgeoisie,’ so as to include some of the French whom when they are good are very good indeed, but when they are bad, they are horrid?—the presiding God/Gods of this Trinity is/are: 1. Sex, 2. Religion, 3. ‘Drugs;’ and the greatest of these is Sex, actually the main root of which the other two are tough and twisted stems, each with its peculiar species of poisonous flowers, sometimes superficially so attractive that their nastiness passes for Beauty.” And: “There was a Norwegian missionary named Amundsen, even more colourless and doleful than brainless Scandinavians usually are.” And: “The irritability and insularity of the Englishman, with his snobbishness, pomposity and cant, had established a prejudice on the part of the authorities against allowing Englishmen to visit the interior of China. My countrymen could be relied upon to make mischief out of the most unpromising materials.” If Crowley was “racist,” he was also “racist against white people.”

So now then, let’s say that Crowley wasn’t the racist that so many people claim he was. Let’s say that he was just a wise guy and a shit-talker. It is clear from his words and his actions that he never had any intention of excluding anyone based on the color of their skin or their nationality, but where does that leave us today? In more recent years, the Supreme Grand Council of Ordo Templi Orientis issued the following official statement:

It is no secret that Aleister Crowley’s writings include a number of statements that are demeaning to women and to specific racial or ethnic groups. We make no attempt here to justify or explain away those statements. They are what they are, and they are now part of our history as an organization. However, at this time, we find that ideas of the inherent superiority of one sex over the other, or of the inherent superiority or inferiority of specific “races” or ethnicities of humanity, relative to each other, are not supported by the best science, and are contrary to our stated goals of promulgating the Law of Thelema and realizing the age-old vision of the Universal Brotherhood of Man, which includes all Humankind. Therefore, the U.S. Grand Lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis hereby formally and unequivocally rejects all such ideas. O.T.O. draws strength from diversity; we welcome the participation and friendship of Thelemites of all sexes, genders, “races,” and ethnic groups, and from all cultures; and we are committed to opposing their unfair treatment, within and without the Order. We further remain committed to opposing ideas and doctrines–whether religious, political, philosophical, or pseudo-scientific–that tend toward the enslavement of the human spirit, which indwells “every man, every woman, and every intermediately-sexed individual.”

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9 thoughts on “Aleister Crowley on Race: An Overview

  1. Great article Damien! Lately, in thinking about the race-ethnic issues that humanity must work out; I keep thinking about the incarnation of souls. The Book of the Law points to worship of the Soul not the blood-line. Crowley was ahead of the common views of his era, however was also prisoner of those views as well.

  2. The holy order of ra hoor khuit in Tampa (814 W Minnehaha st., Tampa FL 33604) under ray eales/Karen Hahn is bogus. ray eales is a pedophile. the order members are making holographic replicates of themselves that are kako demons and spy on other members of the order on the astral. ray has acknowledged in his writings that one can create and astral temple that allows one to keep one’s consciousness intact after physical death. It would appear the “temple” part meant ones own demonic consciousness. when ray uses the pronoun “Us”, what he really means is a large conglomerate of disincarnate hooligans that are a part of a large astral program. They include pedophiles like ray, as well as psychopaths and criminals that are bent on harassment and entrapment. They, including aiwaz, are bent on carcer-ing (carcer as in in-carcer-ation from liber 231 and the genni) any potential initiate in order to bend and break them to their own vampiric will. They call it “dying” as in the Death Atu and relate it to the number 51, but one would not necessarily need to be harassed into litterally going to jail and being convicted. But this is the astral program they have going. Israel Doyle (6709 Larimer Dr Tampa FL 33615), Andrew Dean Doyle( 4537 W. North St. Tampa Fl 33614), Amber Stone, Levent Pancar and Joshua Michael all know this is going on. Israel is a criminal and sells and smuggles drugs out of his house while associating with gangs using the order and rays name as a front. His father is unusually psychic and has access to any members/initiates consciousness as he pleases. They can set up any scenario they want for any purpose they deem necessary and have unlimited power to do as they please. THEY ARE HARRASSING AND ENTRAPPING PEOPLE by setting up social scenarios that allow them to piss off cops, friends, co-workers or whom ever they can and resultingly get initiates into majorly bad trapping scenarios. I hope the CIA and the US govt. is interested in this since it has carried out lots of research into such programs as Project Star Gate and “Remote Viewing” programs.

  3. I think this is an excellent analysis.

    I’ve said elsewhere, and I’ll say here, that many of the issues with Crowley come from a few basic issues, all having to do with failing to read Crowley in context with the events and attitudes of his time, as evinced by other writers or media of the time. Some of the more striking:

    1) People do not understand the mixture of a serious point and subtle sarcasm or intrinsic irony.

    This is one of those things that is terribly hard to get across. Most of us can understand outright satire, in the fashion of The Onion. But it is hard to understand when sarcasm is mixed in, or used occasionally for emphasis. We might do better to call it “irony,” when it’s not really pointed, or mere hyperbole to make a point. And if it has to do with race, or Nazis or anything else that’s a flashpoint today, we make sure to telegraph that we are NOT in fact racist or a Nazi, because we know that matters.

    In the past, it was far more common for writers, particularly those who wanted to be considered erudite and intellectual, to mix these elements without a great deal of “telegraphing the joke.” They weren’t as sensitive to being considered racist or whatever, they were concerned about being emotionally provocative and getting across their ideas.

    The best example I could give today with which most people are somewhat familiar is Stephen Colbert. Consider those moments when Colbert *almost* feels like he believes what he’s saying. Where you’re like “wait, what?” That’s part of the shtick and because it’s Colbert, you know better.

    You can get some feel from authors like Hunter Thompson, though they are much more over the top and much more willing to telegraph that they are “Gonzo.” Thompson comes from a tradition of journalism that began with Damon Runyon, who was a younger contemporary of Crowley, and his work is much more subtly sarcastic. What’s very much confusing is that the sarcasm is not always a Colbertian counterpoint, but may illustrate a truth, merely through exaggeration.

    From the period Mencken is probably closest to Crowley. He one wrote a piece about Millard Fillmore introducing the first bathtub to the White House that is still often cited as history, incidentally in 1917 just before Crowley’s return to major publication. Damon Runyon, and S. J. Perelman are also good references. It can also help to look at pre turn of the century humorists like Thackeray, to get a feel for Crowley’s style. Being able to tell where something was a joke was considered a basic part of literary competence and woe betide the Cambridge student who took anything “too seriously.” Of authors that are still read, Dorothy Parker is probably the best to get some feel, but she is far more “modern” than Crowley. Her review of “Winnie the Pooh,” might be a good place to start.

    1) People do not understand how writers in the past thought about racism

    In Avenue Q, we learn “Everyone is a little bit racist.” “If we all could Just admit / That we are racist A little bit, / Even though we all Know that it’s wrong, / Maybe it would help Us get along!”

    I think in our modern, global, culture, we’re trying very hard to be accountable and hold our friends accountable by “calling them out” for intrinsic and low-key racism. That’s good. But it is not how things have always been. It is how nothing was in 1925. Most of our progressive laws against racial discrimination were voted for by people who had also told a few racist jokes or harbored a few prejudices. They also knew it was wrong. The cross burning KKK member, or church shooter does not know they are wrong. They do not acknowledge that racism is a flaw, not a virtue.

    In the 1920s and 1930s what was, by the time of my childhood, jokes or tropes that educated people told only in private rooms framed by “I know it’s terrible but…” were simply standard trade in public. No one thought they did any great harm. Nobody thought they led to cross burning, or lynching. They were a sort of snide superiority certainly. They were racist. But they were that “little bit racist” of Avenue Q. Crowley is definitely “a little bit racist,” but so was nearly everyone alive at his time. If that makes us uncomfortable, perhaps it is because it is a reminder that somewhere down there we’re still a little bit racist too.

  4. He most certainly was racist. Him being a “product of his time” does not take away the fact that he shared derogatory views on other races as well as women’s and children.

  5. Wonderful article! As a black person I just felt the same as Crowley. He was white, fond of non-white races. I am black, fond of non-black races, especially the light-skinned beautiful races of Europe.

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