It appears Jason has a similar idea for marking the birthday of the Beast.
No Star Ruby for me (though I certainly rather like it).
Instead it was some booze -a Sicilian Primitivo in honour of Cefalù- and a re-read of some of my favourite essays from The Revival of Magick… The Camel probably being in my top three.
This small act of Magickal lectio divina really suits a birthday remembrance because thinking about Crowley makes me think about being a kid.
That nostalgia, in fact, may be half the reason I went looking for Boleskine House earlier in the year. (The other half of the reason was we were simply in the neighbourhood.)
You see, I encountered his work quite early on in life. Maybe thirteen.
It was Wicca first, as it was for most people. Then, also like most people, there was the realisation that Wicca probably isn’t right for me.
(Not that I will hear a bad word against Wicca because it taught me a very valuable lesson -possibly the ultimate lesson. Your spiritual journey is entirely up to you so go the fuck after it. Also magic works. Yes, that’s two lessons. I didn’t say it taught me math.)
Then it was Thelema Lite. The early nineties was a great time for Thelema Lite if you lived at the very edges of the civilised world. My gateway drug was Dr Hyatt. There were a lot of accessible books published at the time, which was good, because I’d bought Magick: In Theory and Practice in all it’s lurid purple, horribly typeset, toilet paper stock glory and it was just… goo.
But through Dr Hyatt I began to form my initial impression of the man.
Here was this rebellious, cheeky, drug-taking, champagne-drinking, mountain-climbing bisexual radical who periodically took himself off to Paris for sex, drugs and magic instructing me to just go for it.
This is like catnip to someone in their mid-teens. I was already earnestly embarking on a strict regime of underage drinking and experimentation with drugs. Plus, this was before I worked out my default orientation so I was still getting off with girls as well. (A sixteen year old boy can maintain an erection while being kicked in the crotch by an avalanche. It took me a while to work out that just because the pipes were working it didn’t mean I actually wanted to be there.)
On two memorable occasions, I used Aleister Crowley’s philosophy to hoodwink a “questioning” male friend in high school to make out with me. In my mind, Uncle Al is proud. (Relax, one of them turned out to be a ‘mo and the other one is still a friend. In Tequila insania.)
So yeah… Thinking about Crowley makes me think about those teen years where you seem to be building your adult self up faster than a Chinese skyscraper.
And you know what?
I think about him quite a bit here in London as well. The original Isis Urania temple is twenty minutes walk from my house. I used to walk past the street where he held drug-fueled theatrical performances in his apartment for Victorian bohemians.
There are other flashes that make me think about what he managed to achieve and the regime he managed to achieve it under. His sociopolitical revolutions seem small to us but they were huge at the time.
Just behind Sloane Square station are a network of eerily quiet, immaculately restored Victorian townhouses and mansions. They filmed the original Upstairs Downstairs here. It’s so quiet it feels like a movie set of London rather than a half mile from Victoria station that it actually is. (Grosvenor Estates for any of you real estate/Duke of Westminster nerds out there.)
I passed through here on my way to a work lunch today. It’s a place of black Range Rovers with tinted windows ready to whisk powerful people away at a moment’s notice. On one street, I walked past a guard with a machine gun. It’s rare to see a machine gun on your way out for pizza in London. (A casual Google search reveals this was Baroness Thatcher’s house. Pshah! The one time I head into town without strapping fifty pounds of plastic explosives to my chest.)
Crowley occurred to me on this walk. Yes, he briefly lived vaguely in the area, yes I knew it was his birthday but he occurred to me for a very specific reason: Crowley is also one of the imaginary friends I call to mind straight away whenever I’m in a situation in which I don’t belong. Because I certainly don’t belong on spotless Victorian streets covered in mansions owned by the Duke of Westminster that house ghoulish, unkillable crones.
Fortunately the nice policeman with the machine gun doesn’t quite know just how much I don’t belong. Magic sometimes makes you feel like a cuckoo. Like you’re a spy in the house of the Demiurge. Usually this is a manageable feeling but sometimes it just isn’t. Sometimes suburbia or the workplace or Baroness Thatcher makes you suddenly aware that you are quite alone… a stranger in a strange land. Like there is no one in the world who sees things the way you do. The sheer mountain of disbelief or disdain or just lack of comprehension appears daunting. You feel small. Like a kid again.
And that’s when we need family. That’s when we need our uncle.
Happy Birthday Uncle Al.
(Day late obvs. But I was out last night. Thought it coincided with Fontus but it was the full moon. But that’s how family rolls. Thank you Pagan Calendar.)