The Gender Neutral Phallus Of Crowley

The Gender Neutral Phallus Of Crowley Cover Crowley’s phallicism does not exclude women, because “phallus” is a gender-neutral term. We are told that Crowley was using a woman-inclusive meaning of “phallus” derived from psychology. “Crowley read his Freud and Jung very thoroughly. He didn’t use capital P Phallus without assuming that his readers knew what was meant. Unfortunately few today do. He was referring to the psychoanalytic stage of full genital organization, which is the third of a series. The first state is infantile, undifferentiated, and of course generally chaste. The second stage is narcissistic, usually corresponding to adolescence, and masturbatory. In the third, the phallic as they chose to call it, the individual psychology is so organized as to integrate the psyche with the genital Consciousness and its associated instincts, and is then prepared to enter the world, to have intercourse.”

Freud’s psychosexual theory of development differs. The phallic stage in the Freudian model actually is one of the infantile stages, occurs before the age of five (rather than after adolescence), is specifically “phallic” in the sense of the male generative organ (rather than gender-neutral), and occurs years before the final stage of development, which is called “genital” (a gender-neutral term). In Freud’s model, first comes the oral stage, characterized by sucking, biting and swallowing. Second is the anal stage, characterized by toilet training. Third is the phallic stage, about the end of the third or fourth year, characterized by playful self-stimulation, and the formation of the Oedipal complex. During the phallic stage of development comes “penis envy.” In this infamous theory, Freud claimed that the natural course of development is stymied during the phallic stage in girls, and that they blame their mothers for their lack of a phallus. Then the fourth stage, from about five until adolescence, is called the latency period, and finally during adolescence the fifth, “genital” stage sets in, characterized by preparation for marriage.2

It is questionable that Crowley read Freud in depth. His scattered references to Freud touch repeatedly on a few broad themes in no great detail. Crowley refers to the primacy of the sex instinct, to the Oedipus complex, and to the unconscious as a source of dreams and phantasms, and little else.

As for Jung, most of his work was unavailable in English until late in Crowley’s life or after his death. Crowley did read the first English translation of Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido3. This book deals extensively with phallic symbolism and the libido, and Crowley refers to it in his commentaries to The Book of the Law4. Judging by its solar-phallic content, this book may have been a significant influence on Crowley’s thought and his reformation of the O.T.O. However, the book condemns Freud’s theory, and refers to the “phallus” in its traditional male sense. Jung uses the gender-neutral term “libido” to indicate psychic energy5 in both men and women, but “phallus” to refer to the male organ and its symbols. A number of symbols of female genitalia are discussed, but none are called “phallic.”

If Crowley had a gender-neutral Interpretation of “phallus,” he did not get it from Freud, whose use of the word was gender-specific. Nor could this usage derive from Jung, who was no adherent of Freud’s psychosexual theory, and who also used “phallus” in a gender-specific sense. Scholarly English6 and Greek7 dictionaries contain no gender-neutral usage of “phallus” from ancient times to the present. It would be anomalous to ascribe this unique usage to Crowley, who from all indications used the word in its traditional sense. If there is any evidence to establish this peculiar reading, it was not presented in the Address.

An interesting view appears in a book found in the curriculum of Crowley’s occult order A.·.A.·.8, Richard Payne Knight’s A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus 9. Knight applies the now obsolete method of syncretistic comparativism to a variety of phallic and vulvar deities in an attempt to demonstrate that they all express the Neo-Platonic legend of an original hermaphroditic creator God who split into two halves, one male and one female. He alternates in apparent confusion between asserting that the genders of deities are interchangeable since they all symbolize the original creator, and that male deities represent the “active generative power of God” while female deities represent the “passive generative power of earth.” He is more consistent in holding that the differentiated “organs of generation” represent the gender-specific powers. Since he does not use the word “phallus,” Knight could not have been the source of the purported usage in Crowley.

There are, however, elements of Knight’s original hermaphroditism in Crowley, as in Chapter 35 of The Book of Lies, “Venus of Milo,” which after condemning the female body as “ugly” states, “the Lingam and the Yoni are but diverse developments of One Organ”. In the comment to the chapter, though, Crowley is careful to refute any appearance of egalitarianism. Placing the female in a distinctly inferior position, he writes, “the female body becomes beautiful in so far as it approximates to the male. The female is to be regarded as having been separated from the male, in order to reproduce the male in a superior form”. His lukewarm, androcentric redaction of Knight’s original hermaphroditism does not suggest that the word “phallus” had a gender-neutral meaning to Crowley, or that either Crowley or Knight regarded the two sets of genitals as interchangeable or equivalent.

A gender-neutral phallicism is hard to see in Crowley’s work. There is no reference to any woman as in natural possession of a phallus, and he did not believe that women were equal partners with men in sex. In outer writings his explanation of sex magick revolves around the relationship between father and son, and in the human quintessence within the semen.10 Sometimes a mother and daughter are paired with the father and son; often the father and son stand alone; never are the mother and daughter discussed independently. In The Star Sapphire sex magick ritual11, the woman appears only in a bracketed note, and is treated as a tool of the magician, not his partner. The same formula is discernible in the Gnostic Mass, on which more below. In Liber Aleph Crowley writes that pre-eminent in all sex magick “is the Formula of the Serpent with the Head of the Lion,” the semen, “and all this Magick is wrought by the Radiance and Creative Force thereof.”12 To Crowley the magick is in the man. The woman is a necessary, respected and even consecrated tool of this formula but she is not the source of magick. She is only a magick mirror for the manifestation of the God.

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