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Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), who styled himself the “Great Beast 666,” is an enduring presence both in the occult subculture and contemporary popular culture. He is hailed by some as a philosopher, magician, and prophet. He is condemned by others as a depraved egomaniac. But, for the most part, he is merely consumed for his shock value and diverting eccentricities.
Yet not much is known about Crowley as a social and political theorist who addressed the problems of industrialism, democracy, and the rise of mass man and society. Crowley’s social and political theory is grounded in a Nietzschean critique of morality and a metaphysical critique of modernity that often parallels the Traditionalism of René Guénon and Julius Evola.
The influence of Nietzsche is evident in Crowley’s aim of creating a new religion that would replace the “slave morality” inherent in the “Aeon of Osiris,” represented in the West as Christianity. A new Aeon of “force and fire,” the Aeon of Horus, “the Crowned and conquering child,” would be predicated on a new “master morality” expressed in Crowley’s new religion of “Thelema,” meaning “Will,” to be understood in Nietzschean terms as “Will to Power”: an endless upward striving to higher forms, individual and collective.
Crowley, therefore, despite some of his associations, should not be counted among the counter-tradition. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” were repugnant to him, and it was frankly absurd for him enroll Weishaupt among the Thelemite “saints.” Crowley’s inclusion of Weishaupt can perhaps be explained not by what he was for, but by what he was against. For Wesihaupt directed much of his conspiratorial energy against the Catholic Church, which on a very superficial level might have prompted Crowley’s admiration.
The form of Thelemic government is vaguely outlined in Liber Legis, suggesting the type of corporatism: “Let it be the state of manyhood bound and loathing: thou has no right but to do what thou will.” Contrary to the anarchistic or nihilistic interpretation often given Thelema’s “do what thou wilt,” Crowley defined the Thelemic state as a free association for the common good. The individual will is accomplished through social co-operation. Individual will and social duty should be in accord, the individual “absolutely disciplined to serve his own, and the common purpose, without friction.”
Crowley emphasized his meaning so as not to be confused with anarchism or liberalism. While his Liber Oz (“Rights of Man”) seems to be a formula for total individual sovereignty devoid of social restraint, Crowley stated: “This statement must not be regarded as individualism run wild.”
In what might appear to be his own effort at a “papal encyclical” on good government, Crowley explains:
"I have set limits to individual freedom. For each man in this state which I propose is fulfilling his own True Will by his eager Acquiescence in the Order necessary to the Welfare of all, and therefore of himself also."
Crowley’s rejection of democracy and anything of what might be termed a “slave morality” necessitated a new view of the state. Like others of his time, including fellow mystics such as Evola and Yeats, Crowley was concerned with the future of culture under the reign of mercantilism, materialism, and industrialism. He feared that an epoch of mass uniformity was emerging. He saw equality as the harbinger of uniformity, again drawing on biology:
"There is no creature on earth the same. All the members, let them be different in their qualities, and let there be no creature equal with another. Here also is the voice of true science, crying aloud: “Variety is the key of evolution.” Know then, o my son, that all laws, all systems, all customs, all ideals and standards which tend to produce uniformity, being in direct opposition to nature’s will to change and develop through variety, are accursed. Do thou with all thou might of manhood strive against these forces, for they resist change which is life, and they are of death."