Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Occultist Aleister Crowley and Buddhism

The notorious early 20th Century occultist Aleister Crowley was very much a twisted polymath of his time – a gifted mountaineer, friend of the famous, writer, occultist and poet. He studied eastern mysticism and religions and was very familiar with the history and tenets of Buddhism long before it was popular in the West. His philosophy - summed in a nutshell was “Do what thou wilt – this shall be the whole of the law” – a position is at best a perversion of Buddhist philosophy and one that is very much lacking in the key element of compassion. Compassion was a characteristic that Crowley had not at all and delighted in his own inherent cruelty and pursuit of power. That said he had some sympathy for Buddhism as a ‘scientific religion’ based on intuited absolute truths.

If only he had turned his mind to good and used his demonstrable powers of persuasion and influence to advance a philosophy of good, kindness and universal love the world would be a better and wiser place. Sadly however that was no to be.

"An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind."Buddha

The Buddhist by Aleister Crowley

There never was a face as fair as yours,

A heart as true, a love as pure and keen.

These things endure, if anything endures.

But, in this jungle, what high heaven immures

Us in its silence, the supreme serene

Crowning the dagoba, what destined die

Rings on the table, what resistless dart

Strike me I love you; can you satisfy

The hunger of my heart!

Nay; not in love, or faith, or hope is hidden

The drug that heals my life; I know too well

How all things lawful, and all things forbidden

Alike disclose no pearl upon the midden,

Offer no key to unlock the gate of Hell.

There is no escape from the eternal round,

No hope in love, or victory, or art.

There is no plumb-line long enough to sound

The abysses of my heart!

There no dawn breaks; no sunlight penetrates

Its blackness; no moon shines, nor any star.

For its own horror of itself creates

Malignant fate from all benignant fates,

Of its own spite drives its own angel afar.

Nay; this is the great import of the curse

That the whole world is sick, and not a part.

Conterminous with its own universe

the horror of my heart!

The Buddha's Face


  1. Crowley's idea of will, however, is not simply the individual's desires or wishes, but also incorporates a sense of the person's destiny or greater purpose: what he termed "True Will".

    The second precept of Thelema is "Love is the law, love under will"—and Crowley's meaning of "Love" is as complex as that of "Will." It is frequently sexual: Crowley's system, like elements of the Golden Dawn before him, sees the dichotomy and tension between the male and female as fundamental to existence, and sexual "magick" and metaphor form a significant part of Thelemic ritual. However, Love is also discussed as the Union of Opposites, which Crowley thought was the key to enlightenment.

  2. Crowley was an idiotic narcissistic fakir who didn't know squat! He fools a lot of people because they themselves do not know squat!

  3. Compassion is not completely lost to Thelema, but Thelema is itself much less passionate about compassion than Buddhism is.

    Secondly, Thelema is primarily about doing one's own True Will. While it necessarily follows from Crowley's philosophy, no Thelemite is bound to be like Crowley, or emulate everything he did, or believe everything he believed. (Crowley once stated that he wanted every person to "cut his own way through the jungle," or some such thing. He made clear that he himself was not an idol to be emulated in every possible way--at least initially.)

    Crowley also changed his mind quite a bit, and was open to believing different things, and espousing different ideas, at different times. No one denies that there were times when Crowley was inconsistent in his views.

    Crowley writes, in 'Magick Without Tears', “When you can [help others] as it should be done, without embarrassment, false shame, with your whole heart in your words—do it simply, to sum up—you will find yourself way up on the road to that royal republic which is the ideal of human society.” He also wrote, in 'Duty', “The distress of another may be relieved; but always with the positive and noble idea of making manifest the perfection of the Universe.”


    I also want to point out that there are syncretic Buddhist-Thelemic groups. (e.g. Ordo Sunyata Vajra.)