To this day, Aleister Crowley remains the most legendary western occultist of his time. The press dubbed him “the wickedest man alive,” and he was more than happy to give them “the Beast.” Crowley is a point of contention for many occultists due to his rock star lifestyle that presents him to a be a figure more akin to Keith Richards or Oscar Wilde. His life was addled by drug addiction and what was at the time seen as “sexual deviancy,” but today would be behavior typical of any congressman. Despite his persona, he contributed greatly to western high majick. After leaving the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and doing some world travel, Crowley and George Cecil Jones formed the A∴A∴ , and Crowley went on to reorganize The O.T.O or Ordo Templi Orientis.
Founded in 1902, the O.T.O was originally more Masonic-based, but under Crowley’s leadership the esoteric practice took center stage. While it can be hard to separate the philosophy of Thelema or “will” from the O.T.O, this concept was not first touched upon by Crowley, but by Francois Rabelais back in 1507 in his classic epic Gargantua and Pantagruel. In this story, it is referred to as an Abbey of Thelema, whose sole rule was “Do What Thou Wilt.” It was not until 1904 that Crowley wrote the Book Of the Law or Liber AL Vel Legis after it was transferred by the entity Aiwass to him while he was traveling in Egypt with his wife. The thelemic path might be argued to be a religion, but this school of study allows practitioners to worship a pantheon of gods of their choosing, or none at all. However, the writings of Crowley abound with a few spiritual figureheads, most of which are Egyptian gods and goddess “re-imagined” by Thelemic rites. The most prominent are the Egyptian goddess Nuit; her male counterpart Hadit; and the Crowned and Conquering child Ra–Hoor–Khuit. Nuit is refereed to as being “heaven itself” and is also thought of the condition of being “all that is,” while Hadit is that matter in motion.
On page 17 of the Book of the Law is the famous phrase: “Do What Thou Wilt Shall be the whole of the Law,” and it goes onto say, “thou hast no right but to do thy will.” This gets taken out of context and used as an excuse for hedonism by would-be pagans and Satanists, who are more than likely only familiar with that phrase and maybe, “Love is the Law, Love under Will.” It actually pertains to the attainment of one’s true will –this is a journey of a lifetime or more, not a license to party.
The Book of the Law might seem like gibberish to some, but within it are many secrets veiled in metaphor. The O.T.O, being an initiatory system, only reveals those as one gains degrees. Some groups argue that in the age of the Internet, initiatory bodies are of the old aeon, and they have gone on to start free-illuminist bodies that share with all seekers. This might take some of the knowledge initiates gain through their trials and place them out of context. After all, occult means hidden, so it is all about the journey – as there might not be a true destination.
It is no surprise that due to Crowley’s mystique, many musicians over the years have become enamored by his writings – the most obvious being Jimmy Page, who bought Crowley’s Boleskine House on the southeastern side of the Loch Ness – but Crowley has many other admirers in the rock/metal world, including David Bowie, Bruce Dickinson, Behemoth, Current 93, Fields of the Nephillim, Tool, Tiamat, Paradise Lost, Can and Throbbing Gristle. Today, the O.T.O is seeing another resurgence in the State,s and the Grand Lodge has been hosting conferences for the past fifteen years.
Further reading – The Book of the Law and the Gems of the Equinox series.