The Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley
Richard Kaczynski, Ph.D., James Wasserman
128 pages, Paperback
A “concise guide” to Aleister Crowley might serve any number of purposes, but it seems the main two would be to provide an introduction for those who intend to dive deeper into Crowley’s system, and to give other interested readers an epitome of the system in lieu of (possibly poorly) selected longer works. Of course, if the book works well, some readers in the second category might pack their spiritual caravans and undertake the longer journey as well.
The fact that the author of the present book carries splendid qualifications inspires immediate confidence. Dr. Kaczynski is a Bishop of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E. G. C.), past master of an OTO lodge, and the author of Perdurabo, a well-regarded biography of Crowley.
The present work comprises: a brief life of Crowley; an overview of the main magical societies (A:. A:., O. T. O., and E. G. C.); and four chapters on the theory and practice of magick. Appendices include writings by Crowley on the structure and usages of the A:. A:. and O. T. O., Liber Oz, an epitome of Thelema, contact information for O. T. O., and E. G. C., a few other online resources, and a detailed bibliography.
For those properly daunted by the bibliography, the author has included a “top eleven” list of Crowley’s most important writings (pp. 33 ff.)
The book is full of little gems like this (p. 64): “Where Buddhism says all existence is sorrow (dukkha), Thelema says that existence is ‘pure joy.'”
While it would be absurd to say this book “demystifies” Crowley, it should serve to remove some of the “otherness” from many readers’ view of him. In several places, it shows how “Love is the Law” tempers “Do what thou Wilt” and exposes our supposed “Wickedest Man” as a servant of the Light. Or, if you have biases against Crowley that are too precious to let go, you can see this as some kind of insider whitewashing and go on about your business.
Another gem (p. 77): “Since the most important part of magick happens between your ears, anything you can do to make your work special will help.” Every practicing magician will smile at that one.
This is an amazing tour de force in only 128 pages. The book could easily have been made twice as long, but not half, or even three-quarters. It belongs in the library (and on the nightstand) of anyone with the slightest interest in Crowley or the Western Esoteric Tradition in general.
(Thanks to Red Wheel Weiser for the complimentary review copy).