Ech-Pi-El, Klarkashton, and The Beast 666
Previously on the Miskatonic Books blog [ When the Gods Smile on You ] exciting news was reported of the discovery of a new Lovecraft postcard. At the conclusion of the postcard, in tiny script, Lovecraft comments to Clark Ashton Smith on Aleister Crowley. This is arguably the most significant, and to date, earliest find of this type. However, the Miskatonic team doth not rest upon its laurels. More research brings this sly comment into context.
The date seems to be early December 1933 though more research is being done to clarify this. In November 1933, Crowley came again to news headlines when he sued an English author for libel. In those days, newspapers tended to run both “wire service” news and syndicated features as “filler” to entice readership while keeping costs of local reporters low. Thus, when one can’t find a news story in a local contemporary source, one can search other natioanl newspapers of the time, and see a very similar – if not identical – story or feature.
It is possible that such a story has been uncovered, and may very well be the “cuttings” that HPL refers to in the text opf the postcard. Once you read this newspaper excerpt, reflect on HPL’s comment, “…Crowley. What a queer duck! …”
The Miami News of 26 November 1933
The rumor that the spectacular cultist, Mr. Aleister Crowley, could not be insulted appears to be unfounded. Not that the rumor was without basis. In fact, when you consider the wealth of abuse and epithet that Crowley has been subjected to, you would come to consider that his imperviousness to insult was not rumor but fact. However, Achilles had his heel.
It is difficult to think of any term of disparagement in the English language that has not been applied to Aleister Crowley either by word of mouth or in print. He has been labeled charlatan, fakir, scoundrel, thief, torturer of women, foe of men, and so on, through the whole gamut of adjectives used to describe an evil person.
He has adopted “Beast” as his own signature. Not just any beast, but “Beast 666″. France and England have each ushered him to the nearest frontier and requested him to be gone and not to come back. The courts of Detroit, Mich., once rang with denunciations of him. The Italian authorities in Sicily haunted his “castle” hoping to find proof enough to get rid of him. In the midst of their investigations Crowley betook himself to Paris and never went back.
A Little Remark Touches Off a Tremendous Ego
Never has the man offered the slightest protest in rebuttal of all this. While his far from dainty reputation has been pictured in this way he has kept silent, except on one occasion when he emerged from his calm and announced:
“These are petty contingencies. Eastern philosophy and magic raise the soul above them.”
You may well wonder what searing blast of denunciation has finally overcome the “Eastern philosophy and magic” that have protected his ego until now. You could well expect it to be of such force as has never issued from the human mind in the whole annals of epithet. You would never guess it, so here it is.
“– he is a poseur who has come to believe in his own poses – so that they are no longer poses – and that having built up this sinister reputation for himself he goes on playing it up.”
Just a gentle criticism that is bandied around all the time among less hardy souls with no bad feeling, but Mr. Aleister Crowley rushes to court and sues for libel in England.
Miss Ethel Mannin is the culprit who has stirred Crowley. An English authoress who has lived widely, highly and handsomely, Miss Mannin recently wrote a book called “Confessions and Impressions”. Half the book is autobiographical, and the latter half devoted to word pictures of famous people she has known. Some of the portraits are complementary, many are distinctly critical. Her mention of Crowley is merely in passing. It is a feathery sideswipe compared to some of her other strictures, and of all who endured the blows of her opinion only “Beast 666″ takes umbrage!
There are those who do not feel Mr. Crowley to be an utter charlatan and who grant him a measure of some strange genius. His life has been unusual and contradictory.
He first attracted attention when, as a young man in his twenties and recently graduated from Oxford, he worte some highly praised poems for the Oxford Book of Mystical Verse. He numbered among his friends distinguished authors, poets, and painters. His early mystical turn developed with his years and he nurtured this leaning by prodigious study and long wanderings throughout the world.
He crossed China on foot; explored Mexico without guides; has climbed the highest mountains of the world; has sat immobile as a naked yogi in India and begged for rice; and has been heard from in every hidden corner of the globe.
During this time he studied esoteric philosophy and finally appeared in New York announcing himself to be the “Beast of the Apocalypse” and as such adopted as his signature, “Beast 666″. He made his headquarters in Greenwich Village, and started what was called a cult of evil.
This was known as the Order of the O. T. O. and was enmeshed in an elaborate ritual designed to impress the participants, or just to make it more fun. Meetings of this group were attended by mysterious circles, black gowns, incense, gibberish, the “Black Mass”, and all the other routine mumbo-jumbo that is associated with such doings.
But when Mr. A. W. Ryerson, of Detroit, was sued for divorce by his young and beautiful ex-model wife it became apparent that there was more to the O. T. O. than secret services. Stories were told of orgies of great barbarity. The details have never been published, because they were so lurid.
It came out that the motto of commandment, of the group was: “DO WHAT THOU WILT SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW”
If there was any doubt in the minds of the practitioners as to what to do a hand-book of the creed explained it to them.
Immediately a storm of abuse descended upon Mr. Crowley, as the Purple Priest and head man of the group. He fell into signal disrepute, but was completely unconcerned. He went to Cefalu, Sicily, and for a time nothing was heard of him.
Then Mrs. Betty May Loveday, wife of a young English poet, arrived in London claiming that Crowley had killed her husband. The charge proved unfounded, but as a result of it further details of the carryings-on of the O. T. O. came to light.
Young Loveday had come entirely under the spell of the hypnotic Crowley and had joined the O. T. O. His wife had refused to do so, but she had been present during the ceremonies and told all. It was the same sort of recital as came from Detroit. Again Mr. Crowley moved. This time he went to Paris, as usual, accompanied by violent denunciations by less esoterically inclined people.
Finally came the news that the French government had requested him to leave – a request that would brook no refusal. Further abuse was given him, and he disappeared from public notice.
Now a memoir writer chides him with being a poseur and he resents it. Aleister Crowley is truly a devious person.
Please check out Arcane Wisdom’s very special low imprint version of Aleister Crowley’s Moonchild (introduction by Don Webb). More here … click!