Aleister Crowley

(Edward Alexander Crowley)

1875 - 1947

Hedonist, influential satanist, cult leader and mountaineer, who was described by the press as the 'Wickedest Man in the World'. Born into a wealthy brewing family in Leamington Spa (England), Crowley rejected his parents evangelical faith, caused trouble at school, developed a dubious morality and eventually exploring the occult. As a youth, he killed the family cat simply to determine if it truly had nine lives. He continued his education at Trinity College, Cambridge, although he rarely attended lectures and focused his attentions on mountaineering and writing poetry. He became a successful mountaineer, climbing in Scotland, the Alps, the USA and Mexico, while making attempts on K2 (1902) and the south face of Kanchenjunga (1905). Crowley's leadership during the latter climb brought arguments within the team and he was cruel to his porters. Crowley was a member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, and had climbed with T. Graham Brown (1882 - 1965).

Crowley bought Boleskine House, above Loch Ness, in 1899. Here he is said to have performed satanical rituals, involving himself in drug-taking, orgies, 'sex magic' and developing his own religion - Thelema. This proved an inspiration for L. Ron Hubbard (1911-86) in framing his Church of Scientology. Crowley left Boleskine in 1913.

In 1904, he married and during an extended honeymoon spent a night in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid in Egypt, where he tried to impress his new wife with ritual. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the marriage only lasted six years. Between 1920 and 1923 he lived in Sicily, running the Abbey of Thelema, which again was the focus for outrageous rituals. It is said that Crowley was recruited by British Intelligence during the Second World War and that he came up with the V-for-Victory sign which became a signature of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965).

Crowley died a poverty-stricken heroin addict in a boarding house in Hastings on the south coast of England. He was cremated and his ashes buried in the New Jersey garden of Karl Germer, a follower and successor as cult leader. The National Library of Scotland holds a collection of Crowley's papers.

His antics gained favour with the pop counter-culture of the 1960s and 70s; his face appeared on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album by The Beatles (1967), he greatly influenced David Bowie hedonism and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin bought Boleskine House in 1970.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better