Book: Do What Thou Wilt A Life Of Aleister Crowley by Lawrence Sutin"Do What Thou Wilt" fills-in numerous gaps in Crowley's own writings and maintains an open perspective until the last few chapters. This is good balancing material to add to a Crowley research library.
The legendary aleister crowley (1875-1947) is a tantalizing and bizarre subject. As an occult leader, heroin addict, sexual adventurer, misogynist, and visionary, he is the inspiration for many vile Gothic protagonists. Author W. Somerset Maugham even devoted a novel, The Magician, to this chilling figure of indulgence and religious mockery. Like any good biographer, Lawrence Sutin set out to discover the man behind the myth. After considerable research, Sutin admits that Crowley was "a shameless scoffer at Christian virtue" and "a spoiled scion of a wealthy Victorian family," but he also sees him as a 20th century figure as "protean, brilliant, courageous, and flabbergasting as ever you could imagine."
Throughout most of the book, the author seems to have an (almost) non-judgmental perspective--giving us a "here's the facts" biography. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and could not put it down. It was very nice to read-about all the things Crowley sort-of Glossed-over in his own works. Also, I found it interesting that the author began the book with a list of Crowley's accomplishments that would have been well-recognized, if not for his "Beastly" reputation and eccentric (self-destructive / self-defeating) behavior. The author had access to a wealth of information, including access to individuals in the O.T.O.
Consider these facts about the man who named himself "The Great Beast": He was one of the first Westerners to seriously study Buddhism and Yoga. He radically redesigned the traditional Tarot deck (thus the "Crowley deck"). Contrary to common belief, he was never known to participate in satanic ritual--to do so would acknowledge the Christian church, which he was loathe to do (although he nicknamed his son "The Christ Child"). These are but a few of the surprising morsels one can glean from this excellent biography. Don't expect to find Crowley a likable figure. Do, however, expect to meet a flamboyant man who challenged all forms of religious, sexual, and social oppression and hence became a revered visionary and a reviled demon.
Over-all, the book is quite impressive and it seems to give a more-or-less positive outlook on Crowley's life, although it does tend to dispel illusions of Crowley's grandeur and "Prophet" status. However, this book also leaves one with the impression that Crowley did, in fact, follow the "Do What Thou Wilt" philosophy to the utmost.... The man never had to work an honest day's labor, yet always had enough money or duped enough people into taking care of him, and he *Always* had plenty of sex, women, men, etc. to keep himself "happy" in that department.
I was a bit disappointed that this author doesn't really cover the Occult aspects of Crowley's life very well....he mostly seems to concentrate on Crowley's disreputable behavior, abusive relationships, and the more Tabloid aspects of his life....and seems to gloss-over the details of the writing of "The Equinox" (a 5 year project, skimmed-over in this biography) --I would have enjoyed a detailed break-down of the formation of that work and the people involved. The author sort-of skips-over Crowley's connections with Blavatsky, with minor references.
Although this is an amazing, and well-written, biography of Crowley, one is left with the impression: "So....when did he do Occult stuff ?" (the Occult workings almost seem mere footnotes). This book details his "Book of The Law" workings and the related occult workings, but one gets the impression that the O.T.O. was just something Crowley wrote letters about as an afterthought, occasionally, when he needed money from the members (yet, wouldn't touch L500 of OTO $ under his bed, while lying on the same bed in extremely poor health).
As a member of various organizations, I know that it takes a tremendous amount of work to keep any kind of Masonic or Occult group operational....so, it seems a bit odd that this aspect of Crowley's life seems almost like a background story, or basic framework for Crowley's Love Life.
A more appropriate title for this book would be: "Do What Thou Wilt: The Life and Loves of Aleister Crowley."
Lively, surprisingly well-written ((all too many biographies don't seem to be written by real writers)), and apparently well-researched, it's a book you're likely to find hard to put down. One gets the sense that Suster knows a considerable amount not only about his subject, Aleister Crowley, but his subject's subject, magick. Here, in a book that must be regarded as right now the definitive text on the life of Crowley, we have a down-to-earth, unsensational accounting of an out-of-this-world, sensational life. *Do What Thou Wilt* but I recommend this book without reservation.
Free eBooks (Can Be Downloaded):Aleister Crowley - The Works Of Aleister Crowley Vol I Part 3
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John Frederick Charles Fuller - The Star In The West A Critical Essay On The Works Of Aleister Crowley
Thomas Voxfire - What Was Aleister Crowley