by Tobias Churton (Inner Traditions, 2017)
Here is the combined tweet storm I did on the book today:
Today I want to talk about “Aleister Crowley In America” by Tobias Churton, which came out a few months ago. As a matter of fact, this is the third book I’ve managed to review by Churton. The book was published by Inner Traditions.
Crowley America has 36 chapters, Two appendixes, footnotes,endnotes, an index and a bibliography. It is 768 pages long. If noting else, the documentation is very well done.
William Breeze, AKA Hymenaeus Beta, OHO of the OTO is quoted as a source 64 times. Think about that. I’m surprised he wasn’t listed as a co-author.
Crowley was in North America twice. From 1900-03 and from 1914-19. The first time he bummed around Mexico. The second time he was in New York City most of his stay. He was flat broke during most of his second tour of North America.
His major accomplishment in Mexico, the first stay was to get an occult order kicked off the ground. It was called the Lamp of Invisible Light. He see.ms to have posed under a pseudonym for much of his initial trip into Mexico.
There are speculations that Crowley was involved with British Intelligence during his Mexican stay, but Churton doesn’t find much evidence for it.
Crowley showed up in New York City in October of 1914, just as WWI broke out. He had a bad leg, little money, and survived by freelance writing. At times, he was sent money by his followers.
By 1914, he had the English language branch of the OTO running, but very few members. It was still under the nominal control of Theodor Reuss, a German national.
This was the period where Crowley wrote for The Fatherland and The International, two pro-German publications. Crowley would claim he wrote the pro-German pieces as a way to establish himself so he could work for British Intelligence.
Although Crowley never was a registered agent for any of the British Secret Services, Churton appears to believe this account. It should be pointed out that the United States was still officially neutral at this point.
Crowley was a compulsive journal writer. He kept his “magickal diary” up to date. For that, historians are grateful, as it allows them to see what he was doing and who he was doing it with on a regular basis.
He did sex magick A Lot. Crowley recorded who he did it with, what they did, and the results. To him, this was an alchemical process. He’d make the sign of the beast with two backs with women (9th degree) or men (11th degree) as a way to determine the outcome of the future.
Doesn’t seem to have done him a lot of good, given the way his life ended. He left American the way he came, with little in the way of worldly possessions. Although born rich, he managed to burn through his inheritance pretty quick.
I won’t say Churton glosses over Crowley’s many issues. He does seem to have the opinion Crowley was a sex addict. However, Churton is true believer in the Crowley philosophy of Thelema (“Will”).
We may never know what happened to his meeting with the Freemasons in Detroit. Churton does a good job covering that incident, but the material he had to work with isn’t that good. All we do know is that Crowley and the Freemasons parted on bad terms.
If you find the legend of Crowley fascinating, as I do, you’ll want this book. I doubt there is much to add to the Master Therion’s time in America until more documentation appears. Given most of this took place over a 100 years ago, I don’t expect will see more information.