Crowley the mountaineer

Aleister Crowley and the Quest for Equilibrium

Quote by Crowley
Aleister Crowley quote on equilibrium
Art from the Thoth Deck
XIV Art from the Thoth deck

Aleister Crowley was a Libran sun sign, born on October 12th  the same year as C.G. Jung.  He often used the word ‘equilibrium’ which encapsulates something of the Libra archetype, finding the harmony and balance of all the forces within in perfect measure and counterbalance.  To get the pronunciation of his name out of the way, the last name rhymes with Holy and Moly – so you could say Holy Moly Crowley. It is not pronounced like ‘brown cow.’ Since he was such a dynamic and highly controversial figure naturally people are divided – again another Libran quality that is not the most obvious for a sign in which Saturn is exalted teasing out hidden emphasis on law and measured restraints. People often forget that Librans are Cardinal- perhaps not in Crowley’s case as he had such a powerful impact on the people he met.  Cardinal can be audacious. This quote references Alchemical symbols of finding equilibrium, expressed not only the Tarot card ‘Art’ XIV from the Thoth deck but also hints that Jung’s concept of ‘individuation’ follows a parallel process. It is not  known whether Jung knew of Crowley or whether Crowley knew of Jung. But if you substitute the word ‘thought’ with ‘archetype’ you can begin to see where they might have similarities. Jung raided the entire occult tradition in order to present his new theory of psychoanalysis to make it presentable and scientific. Crowley did not bother being presentable as he didn’t care what people thought. He was a man on a mission to keep on changing ceaselessly.

Aleister Crowley
The mature Crowley

He was multi-faceted with prickly edges, anything written can tend to be a distorted picture, but definitely out of the crazy fool, crazy master tradition of India, Tibet and the double trouble of Master who is also a fool, that confuses followers. Gurdieff (Capricorn) also used shock tactics to break people out of their hypnotic slumbers. He was the receptacle of many a fearful projection by others including the Daily Express who dubbed him ‘the wickedest man in the world’- the kind of headline that sells newspapers. It was his mother who first named him the ‘Beast’. But it fits the Libran sun- that uncanny ability to mirror back people’s fears and aspirations.

An overview of his life has very rich pickings:  besides being one the most influential occultists in the esoteric tradition, he was a poet, a mountaineer, a painter, a chess master, a writer, a performer of sorts, a mystic, a prophet, a prankster and even allegedly an intelligence agent, though uncertain whether that was for Britain or Germany. So I will not be tempted to drawn into the useless debate whether he was evil or not – most people are a mixture of good and bad traits and that should be enough.  This is something that astrology teaches, not to judge too quickly, lead can be transformed into gold. This is especially true in synastry where to expect two people to align perfectly with all trines and sextiles is to deny the energy that is generated by the squares and oppositions. In any case, like notations on a music score, a natal chart shows the lines but the native has to then play the music whichever way they are inclined. The universe welcomes interpretations.

There are two birth times for Crowley on record: one at 11.30 pm and the other at 11.42 pm which he rectified himself.  Both of them are interesting for different reasons.  I used the 11.42pm one on Astrodienst, but Darkstar’s  suggestion is that the 11.30 pm gives him not one but two dynamic Yod formations. These are where two quincunxes are connected by a sextile, and the planet at the apex – the Sun in Libra- is the troublesome spot where there is a continued imbalance. Crowley certainly wrestled with demons which Yod formations might suggest, a continuous imbalance. The Yod formation is two quincunxes connected by a sextile. The planet at the apex of these two quincunxes points to a continued area of trouble. In Crowley’s case it was the Sun conjunct his IC, in the 4th where he played with multiple layers of personal and transpersonal selves, that at times, even he failed to understand who he was, and struggled with this balancing act.

Book cover 'The Confessions'
The Confessions of Aleister Crowley (1971)

What a tempestuous life he had. Born with a huge fortune to play with, he nevertheless dedicated himself to climbing mountains, studying yoga and Buddhism, and rising up the ranks of the Golden Dawn to become a Grand Master while quite young. This created enemies aplenty including W.B.Yeats who detested Crowley.  His autobiography- ‘The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography’ i.e. of a ‘saint’ (1971) is a fun-packed read. Few have managed to compress so much adventure into one life. His writing is crisp and lucid, informative, and often embellished with hilarious character assassinations. He never shrank from speaking his mind- as only a strong Mercury in Scorpio could- it may explain too while some were shocked by his explicitly worded pornographic poetry.

I actually taught myself to do natal charts using his book ‘The Principles of Astrology’  (1976, Tandem edition, 1976). Originally, Crowley had ghost written this work in 1917-18, but that was released under the name of Evangeline Adams in the USA in the 1930s.  Editions that established Crowley as the true author appeared only after his death. So I’ll keep the focus on astrology, his chart signatures, his asteroids, synastry with the date of receiving ‘The Book of the Law’ (1904) and how he used astrology in his work. A requirement of the initiates of the Golden Dawn was to learn all the systems of correspondences and their symbolism, it was considered the 101 of fledgling magicians of the hermetic tradition. He used astrology to time workings, and to do auspicious elections and to understand synchronicity. In the Rites of Eleusis, (1910) with the help of Victor Neuberg and Leila Wadell on violin, he restored the classical paganism inherent in Astrology by performing invocation rites to invoke each of the seven planetary archetypes in public.  This took place at Caxton Hall in London. No magician could be without his glyphs and sigils and it was his deep knowledge of astrology that made Evangeline Adams hire him to write her book as he knew how to explain it scientifically. Adams knew how it worked but did not understand basic things like the solar system operated in orbits, more or less like a disk.

The Complete Astrological Writings by Aleister Crowley
 Astrology by Aleister Crowley

This little extract from the introduction is a fine example of the Crowley vintage style which teases the reader to think in terms of  twisted irony:

“Astrologers sometimes make mistakes. From this fact, which

even they are scarcely sufficiently brazen to dispute, it

follows with mathematical certainty that astrology is not a

science but a sham, a quackery and a fraud.  I contrast its

shameful uncertainty with medicine, where no doctor ever

lost a patient; with law where no lawyer ever lost a case, or

even with arms, where no soldier ever lost a battle!”

 

With a Leo ascendant he loved these dramatic flourishes, and ironic twists. I might look at the Jupiter which is close enough to Mercury in Scorpio, as it was often the case that he hoped the reader would intuit that the hyper-exaggeration of the opposite view than he intended, would relay his meaning more clearly. It does work, but might leave some scratching their heads- what did he just say? Interestingly, Crowley preferred the old square charts while Adams wanted the circular ones which eventually became more popular. These showed up in the documents surrounding his visit to Portuguese author Fernando Pessao in Lisbon 1933.

Crowley the mountaineer
Crowley the mountaineer

His Uranus is prominently placed in Crowley’s chart on the Ascendant and sextile to the Sun but square to Mercury- so a little trickster trouble perhaps? Uranus here meant he would have a striking look, attracting attention, being offbeat and unusual. He played up this  by appearing in various guises, robes, kilts and outre gear, some said posing as different characters. I think Uranus here is better seen as Prometheus as the stealer of fire from the  gods. He saw himself as this prophet of a new era. This captures Crowley ‘s character more to preach a religion in his own name Crowleyanity or Thelema (Will). He loved nothing better than to be the arch iconoclast and provocateur to shock people out of their Victorian moral stupefaction.  The Chiron conjunct the MC points to a healer/magician/transformer figure and being famous for those reasons, perhaps even a shaman, He was a kind of chameleon.  He defined magick as ‘change in accordance with will’, but that will required serious training. For such a strong Sun which expresses that ‘Love under Will’ his other famed saying, he has an extraordinarily sensitive Moon in Pisces in the 9th house giving a good dose of intuition, psychic ability and a huge love of travel, knowledge and higher wisdom, and even some of his more sentimental and romantic poetry in addition to his love of drugs.

Poster for 'The Chemical Wedding' (2008)
The Chemical Wedding’ (2008)

Many have commented how odd it is that he has not been portrayed in film and theatre that much. It is a glaring absence as if he has been erased from the history books.  But one attempt was made by Bruce Dickinson  of Iron Maiden, ‘The Chemical Wedding’ (2008) captures this where Crowley’s spirit possesses the body of Oliver Hadoo – the name stolen from the novel by Somerset Maugham, ‘The Magician’ (1927) which was a caricature of Crowley. This Haddo is a professor of Classics at Cambridge University and is played with verve by Simon Callow. In a lecture on Hamlet, Haddo opens his flies and pisses on the front rows of students to make his point.  That never happened but you can imagine that it would have tickled Crowley’s perverse humour which adored a good limerick, doggerel verse, and did not stop at the scatological. His poetry ranged from the sublimely lyrical to the intensely pornographic. But also, a Leo Ascendant will have drama   at whatever cost, and it can be  difficult to believe that in Mexico he claims he performed a rite that made him invisible, walking down the street in a bright red cloak and jeweled crown, and no one noticing him at all. Whether he achieved this or not, the panache of being so glaringly obvious, of putting major secrets in plain sight in order to hide them, is an artful technique cleverly utilized by the intelligence industry.

Crowley The Rites of Eleusis
Crowley as keeper of the fame

People said  Crowley had presence and intensity, not just sexual allure but his ability to talk, to tell astonishing stories, and hold onlookers with  his eyes which could be his Pluto in trine  a strong Mars in Capricorn- so when he put his mind to it he could almost move mountains. His achievements are profound and whichever stand you take towards him, he can hardly be ignored as an occultist of stature. Mars is conjunct the asteroid Eros, so there is the sexual magnetism embedded in the earthiest of signs. This could also mean materialism, or using people as a means of achieving his ambitions. But it is safe to say that he left no stone un-turned in his gusto for sex, drugs, romance, and adventure.  He is by far the most favoured occultist among rock stars – John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger and David Bowie-who have all claimed that Crowley was an influence on them personally and poster boy for the Six-Six-Sixties.

Asteroid Kalliope is conjunct the Vertex at 23 degrees of Sagittarius. This is trine to Neptune, and if the Vertex is not considered it would leave Neptune more or less  un-aspected. That could make it a wild card.  This could be the reason he suffered from drug addiction. Having had chronic bronchitis he had become addicted to heroin and toward the end of his life, could not get the better of it despite having a famed Will power that was the cornerstone of his philosophy. I also find it interesting that muse asteroid Klio is conjunct Mercury in Scorpio adding a depth of historical knowledge to his ability to write. Klio is the muse of history. His other goddess asteroids Vesta, Pallas, Juno and Ceres all cluster in the sign of Virgo within ten degrees of each other. This is  important to underscore his Chironic nature,  a very flawed human with access to all the hidden wisdom of bodily energies through the stdy of Tantra practices and service to the self of all people.

‘The Book of the Law’ is a prose poem declaring the new age of not Aquarius but Horus –  the hawk god which still represents being lord of the Air and Aquairus as an Air sign- had arrived. It was apparently delivered or channelled to Crowley by a voice from over his right shoulder. The date it began was April 8th 1904 at 12 noon in Cairo and then it was repeated for three days. He was with his wife Rose, sister of painter Gerald Kelly who was later commissioned for portraits of the British Royals. Rose said ‘Horus wants to talk to you’ and they found a stele in the Egyptian museum numbered 666. Crowley himself was the medium ( that Moon in Pisces) and he said in tune with his subconscious, and the voice, deep soft and furious that dictated the 68 page book was that of his daimon, or Holy Guardian Angel, Aiwas. Aiwas spoke much like Zarathustra to Friedrich Nietzche (a fellow Libran), in a imperious tone,  religious-manifesto style, but this was also laced with Qabbalistic codes in which the numbers 11, 666, and 93 are highly significant,  but it contains directives for living in this new era. The chart for that moment- contains a mystic rectangle if the Ascendant and North Nodes are included.  This would be no surprise to an astrologer, as it renders the ‘ divine symmetry’ in the sky with a kind of higher order download of information to the native, who them has the job of trying to disentangle the energies, not always successfully, and who may never be the same afterwards. Crowley said these three days divided his life clearly into before and after.

Crowley painting
Crowley painting

The number of books on Crowley is continually increasing. The work he penned himself is staggering and voluminous, some of great literary quality, and other laden with occult riddles and pranks, as to be the work of a lifetime to study and understand. Recent books by Tobias Churton have researched the lesser known periods of Crowley’s life, his time in Berlin as a painter, and his time in America. Other books such as by William Ramsay say he was a ‘Satanist’ without ever deconstructing what that word might mean. Churton is more enlightening. His paintings have been likened to George Rouault, and Paul Gauguin, in their primitivism but they are also depictions of visions and of altered states of mind. The period in America when he was  as alleged spy  for Germany, and writer for Evangeline Adams. He was so well connected with important figures that a lot of them neglected to mention that they knew him such as Aldous Huxley who was a sitter for one of Crowley’s paintings, and numerous others in positions of power. Hence, the influence of Crowley hence his influence seeps into almost every area of today’s culture from global politics, to warfare, rocket engineering, contact with extra-terrestrials, advertising symbols, glyphs, chaos magic, painting, films, graphic art, popular music, the Bush family, literature and of course to astrology- he wields enormous power and influence  and rather than say he was remarkable, we have to raise that up to something else altogether- mind boggling stuff indeed.

Crowley ended up puffing away on his pipe in Netherwood, a lodging house in Hastings. He was a tired old magus, but his mind was still hyper alert and he was not without energy. He wrote letters to all his followers in the O.T.O in the USA, one of whom was rocket scientist Jack Parsons.  Parsons was also a Libran, but he accidentally blew himself up. Crowley had developed a dependency on Heroin for bronchitis, and died December 1st, 1947. The shadow of the posthumous Crowley however looms large across our culture and has not yet been given its full and objective assessment.  That might take a few more years yet as stories are still emerging about what this puzzle of a man who quested for internal homeostasis was really up to.

© Proteus Astrology, October 12th, 2019

 

Kieron is a London-based and trained astrologer at Proteus Astrology on Facebook:

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