Aleister Crowley

Introduction to Crowley

"Do What Thou Wilt"

The Book of the Law

The Tree of Life

Spiritual Practice

Truth and Falsehood

Sex and Gender


His Personality

His Writing

Essays on Crowley

Facts and Phallacies

The Freedom of Doubt

The Included Middle

A Letter to Close

Pentagram Ritual

Tetragrammaton Mass

Why Crowley Doesn't Suck

The Book of Dzyan


Crowley's hostility to Christianity was vitriolic and intense. There are many Thelemites who are equally hostile and would not accept or admit that any part of Christianity, esoteric or not, is part of Thelema. This utter exclusion of Christianity does not reflect Crowley's complex views on the subject. From his texts a few starting points are clear.

Biographically, Crowley's hatred of Christianity began with his upbringing in the oppressively conservative Protestant tradition known as the Plymouth Brethren, to which his parents belonged. Moralistic and restrictive, the Plymouth Brethren were also obsessed with the Book of Revelation. His mother called the rebellious Crowley "the Beast" early in life well before the Book of the Law confirmed him in this title.

Crowley was a self-identified opponent of Christianity who also practiced Jewish and Christian occult traditions and put the works of Christian mystics on his required reading lists. The key to this contradiction lies in his æonic doctrine. He believed that somehow the Æon of Osiris went horribly wrong, but the Osiris legend remained the natural formula of the time even though its chief exemplar, mainstream Christianity, was corrupt. He is not clear on the details, but the theory appears to be that the Gnostics (a preoccupation of occultists late in the 19th century) were sex magicians who blended Paganism with Christianity and held the sexual inner keys of the formula of the Eucharist of the Catholic Mass, a symbolic form of the secret carried down by the occult underground through the centuries. Crowley's Gnostic Mass, one of his most frequently practiced rituals today, is meant to restore that secret to its proper place. Given this and Crowley's reliance on the reinterpreted Book of Revelation, it would not be far off the mark to call Thelema itself a form of esoteric Christianity.

As mentioned above with respect to the Tree of Life and tables of correspondence, taking the symbols of other religions and placing them into new systems is often considered offensive by believers. An examination of the table of correspondence associated with Christianity in Crowley's 777 reveals a wicked sense of humor at work. This together with his vitriolic hostility to Christianity suggests that he was aware that reducing others' traditions to short notes in a table would not be appreciated and that the Christian elements of his system were at least in part meant to annoy traditional believers. However, it would be a mistake to say that the Gnostic Mass and similar Christian elements in Thelema are low parodies merely meant to offend; many Christian symbols are at the very heart of Crowley's system and evidence demonstrates his sincere devotion to them. For Crowley as for other satirists there was pleasure in using Christian symbols in ways likely to offend, but that was not his primary motive in using symbols like the Rose and Cross.

The Literalist might say this: Christianity is the curse of the world. Those who cling to it in the new Æon of Horus are like those who enslave themselves to the undead and they will be banished when the Sun shall fully rise. When the Prophet wrote "the Christians to the lions!" He did not speak idly or in jest. Christians are the enemies of Freedom and they do not even understand the few fragments of the Secret Tradition that are perverted in their rites. Only when they are all gone can we truly become as "a strong Man who goeth forth to do his Will."

The Chaotic might say this: Christianity is the hand with the stick that has instilled shame and guilt as virtues so we have a whole society of mass-produced clone-farm humanoids who are too afraid to think. The way to dissolve these shackles on a mass scale is through a culture of individuality and the reality distortion effect that has become the dominant paradigm already. Christians are plodding, literal mechanoids who would probably lock up all the magicians if they could get away with it.

The Skeptic might say this: The freethinking movement has had an interface with Christianity longer than it has with occultism, which has often been rigid, dogmatic, and prone to doctrinal warfare. Christianity in both Catholic and Protestant forms has done more than its share of harm in Western culture, and committed injustices on a large scale when it has held power. These failings are well known to us because we come from the Christian culture. There are few religions that seem much better when they acquire political ascendancy, at least from a perspective of human rights, but we are less aware of the similar problems in other cultures and so we are willing to embrace spiritual traditions from cultures with histories of religious abuses such as India, China, Japan, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Persia, and so on. Of the many faiths, Christianity is among those adapting most quickly to the modern world and the idea of human rights, and now at the start of the 21st century liberal theologies are taken seriously in many mainstream denominations and in Vatican II. It is hard to find a Thelemic group as devoted to pluralism as liberal Christian groups and their close relatives (e.g., the Society of Friends, Unitarian-Universalism, Matthew Fox -- some Vatican II documents are more progressive than Thelemic consensus). Authoritarian modes were established by Crowley and persist to this day; in the unlikely event that Thelema rose to political power, its authoritarianism suggests that it would be no better than Christianity or other faiths in this regard.

The Mystic might say this: The Equinox of the Gods has come as it does every two thousand years, installing new Officers and Rites, and sweeping away the darkness of the old ways. Where once blazed the Cross of Suffering as the Sun of Beauty now there is the Crowned and Conquering Child, whose message is not of salvation from without but Grace from Within, the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you (as the phrase survives in the corrupted Gnostic Gospels that appear in the Christian Bible). Through all the Æons there is one thread of tradition and one Great White Brotherhood whose immortal spiritual Chiefs share the Wisdom of their Teaching with humanity. The Christians could not destroy the Gnosis and now the Initiates of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis have embraced the formula propounded at the new Equinox with Joy and Love in their hearts.

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