“The reception of a poem, being a ritual Magical initiation, suffers no interruption. The music must be perfect; hard, maybe, to appreciate, as is Beethoven, but unmistakably sublime when fully understood. “ The Confessions of Aleister Crowley
One of the reasons I love poetry is because it involves aspects of language that appeal directly to, and communicate by, sound and sight. Poetry relies on the sound of the spoken language and on figurative language. It has the ability to transport the reader into an entirely different reality in an extremely short time. When I read many of Aleister Crowley’s poems I find myself submerged into decadent tales full of rich scents, sounds and tastes so descriptive they brutally assault my senses. "The Eyes of The Pharaoh" takes me deep into an ancient pyramid. I go from standing in a tomb, to a temple and back again. I can smell the acrid scent of death wafting through the musty halls and taste dry dust in my mouth. Crowley’s ability to inspire the reader’s imagination is notable. When it comes to being disgustingly descriptive in some of his more vile pieces he certainly possesses a unique gift.
Whatever the substance of the remarks and the ultimate message, poetry is characterized by linguistic elements that go beyond standard sentence structure.
From a literary standpoint Crowley was an unoriginal poet in the sense that he mimicked other great writers primarily in form. There is a great deal more value in Crowley’s poetry than what we can gain from it purely on a literary or analytical basis. He wrote poetry from a young age until close to his death, pouring himself into this artistic form of expression his entire life. When you consider the magical and spiritual experiences and transformations he underwent during his lifetime; the secrets he learned, guarded and taught; the prophetic visions he had; and the sheer amount of knowledge he possessed, it would be naïve to think that none of that came through in his poetry.
Spiritual art of this type has the power to transmit realizations directly to us, as if we share in the artist’s journey. Some spiritual experiences aren’t easily translated into words and poetry provided Crowley with the perfect artistic medium. Some of his poems attempt to describe intense moments of union in which division falls away and the unity of reality and individual awareness is experienced as one fluid stream. Others describe ecstatic experiences of a different kind, while some depict the subtleties of our inner life and of the spiritual journey itself. The language of other genres of writing is expressed as being "poetic" when it draws heavily on either indirect expression of ideas through imagery, symbolism, or figurative language or when it draws heavily on the sound of words. Much of his other writings are poetical in nature because they draw on these expressions of ideas and because he was truly a poet at heart. If he hadn’t been, I do not think that his ideas and philosophies would have survived as long as they have. The work of Aleister Crowley speaks to my soul and has inspired me to discover and describe my individual spirituality through my own poetry and other writings.
Aleister Crowley is best known for being an occultist and the scribe of the Book of the Law, which introduced Thelema to the world. He was a prolific writer and I find that many people are not aware of the intense volume of poetry he published during his lifetime. The fact is that he published it on a fairly consistent basis starting in 1898 and ending in December of 1946, shortly before his death. He published more poetry than anything else. When you take on Crowley’s poetry you must cast aside your preconceived notions of the man himself and of his literary handicaps. You have to be impartially open to it. I encourage you to approach it with new eyes and believe me, you will see new things.
© 2015 Heather Schubert
Bio: Heather Schubert’s education and involvement in Thelema and the philosophies of Aleister Crowley has been rich, broad, deep and exciting. Her burning passion currently lies in further propagating the Law of Thelema and in expanding the areas in which these philosophies apply to all aspects of modern day life. She joined Ordo Templi Orientis, or O.T.O., in 1994 and has been an ordained Priestess in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica since 1999. She teaches classes on the poetry of Aleister Crowley, as well as on his other writings and rituals. Heather has studied classic literature, poetry, philosophy, psychology, religion, anthropology and early childhood education. Her interests and talents lie specifically in applying the Waldorf and Montessori teachings of the therapeutic aspects of creative play across many scientific disciplines and philosophies including research in positive child psychology, sociology, philosophy and other sciences as they relate to what cultivates thriving childhood experiences. She was the editor of the Crowned and Conquering Child for three years. Her poems have been published in a local journal called The Blue Fur as well as in a variety of coffee table books, newsletters and magazines for years. She is currently working on a collaboration of collected poems by Aleister Crowley, a book on thelemic parenting styles and another book that delves into the spiritual aspects of orgasmic birth from a thelemic viewpoint.