Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley was an English occultist, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer. He founded the religion of Thelema, identifying himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity into the Æon of Horus in the early 20th century. A prolific writer, he published widely over the course of his life. Born to a wealthy family in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, Crowley rejected his parents’ fundamentalist Christian Plymouth Brethren faith to pursue an interest in Western esotericism.

Crowley gained widespread notoriety during his lifetime, being a drug user, bisexual, and an individualist social critic. Crowley has remained a highly influential figure over Western esotericism and the counterculture of the 1960s, and continues to be considered a prophet in Thelema. He is the subject of various biographies and academic studies.

Early life

Aleister Crowley was born Edward Alexander Crowley on October 12, 1875, in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England. He was the eldest child of Edward Crowley, a wealthy brewer, and Emily Bertha Bishop. Crowley’s father was a devout member of the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian sect, and Crowley was raised in this faith. However, he soon began to question his parents’ beliefs and began to explore other religions and philosophies.

In 1895, Crowley attended Trinity College at Cambridge University, where he studied mathematics and classics. He also became involved in the occult, joining the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society that studied Western esotericism. Crowley was a gifted magician and quickly rose through the ranks of the Golden Dawn. However, he was expelled from the order in 1900 after he published a book that revealed some of the order’s secrets.

Travels and writings

After leaving the Golden Dawn, Crowley traveled extensively, visiting Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. He also continued to write extensively on occultism, magic, and philosophy. In 1904, he married Rose Edith Kelly, a young woman who shared his interest in the occult. The couple had one child together, a daughter named Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith Crowley.

In 1909, Crowley and Kelly traveled to Egypt, where they claimed to have received a message from a supernatural being named Aiwass. Aiwass gave Crowley a book of magical instructions, which Crowley later published as The Book of the Law. The Book of the Law is the central text of Thelema, the religion that Crowley founded.

Later life

Crowley spent the rest of his life promoting Thelema and his own personal brand of magic. He also continued to write prolifically, producing books on a variety of subjects, including magic, philosophy, and sex. Crowley died in 1947 at the age of 71.


Crowley is a controversial figure, both within and outside of the occult community. He is often vilified for his drug use, bisexuality, and hedonistic lifestyle. However, he is also admired by many for his intelligence, creativity, and commitment to his own personal philosophy. Crowley’s work has had a significant impact on Western esotericism, and he continues to be a source of inspiration for many occultists and artists today.


  • Crowley, Aleister. (1904). The Book of the Law. London: Wieland & Co.
  • King, Francis. (1970). Aleister Crowley: The Great Beast 666. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  • Symonds, John. (1971). The Great Beast: The Life of Aleister Crowley. London: Macdonald & Co.
  • Urban, Hugh B. (2001). Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Wasserman, James. (2009). Aleister Crowley and thelema: A biography. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser.

Sources – Learn more


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