Friday, August 24, 2012

Forthcoming Volume: Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism

My Australian colleague, Philip Johnson, made me aware of an intriguing forthcoming volume in the study of the Western esoteric tradition. It is an edited, multi-contributor volume titled Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism (Oxford University Press, September 2012). The volume brings together a number of scholars who look at various facets of the influence of Crowley on religion from Mormonism to Scientology to Wicca.


This volume is the first comprehensive examination of one of the twentieth century's most distinctive iconoclasts. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a study in contradictions. Born into a fundamentalist Christian family and educated at Cambridge, he was vilified as a traitor, drug addict, and debaucher, yet revered as perhaps the most influential thinker in contemporary esotericism. Moving beyond the influence of contemporary psychology and the modernist understanding of the occult, Crowley declared himself the revelator of a new age of individualism. Crowley's occult bricolage, Magick, was an eclectic combination of spiritual exercises drawn from Western European magical ceremonies and Indic sources for meditation and yoga. This journey of self-liberation culminated in harnessing sexual power as a magical discipline, a "sacrilization of the self" as practiced in Crowley's mixed masonic group, the Ordo Templi Orientis. The religion Crowley created, Thelema, legitimated his role as a charismatic revelator and herald of a new age of freedom. Aleister Crowley's lasting influence can be seen in the counter-culture movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and in many forms of alternative spirituality and popular culture. The essays in this volume offer crucial insight into Crowley's foundational role in the study of Western esotericism, new religious movements, and sexuality.

Table of Contents

ContributorsList of Figures
List of Tables

Foreword - Wouter J. Hanegraaff
1. Introduction - Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr
2. The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Aleister Crowley and the Magical Exploration of Edwardian Subjectivity - Alex Owen
3. Varieties of Magical Experience: Aleister Crowley's Views on Occult Practice - Marco Pasi
4. Envisioning the Birth of a New Aeon: Dispensationalism and Millenarianism in the Thelemic Tradition - Henrik Bogdan
5. The Great Beast as a Tantric hero: The Role of Yoga and Tantra in Aleister Crowley's Magick - Gordan Djurdjevic
6. Continuing Knowledge from Generation unto Generation: The Social and Literary Background of Aleister Crowley's Magick - Richard Kaczynski
7. Aleister Crowley and the Yezidis - Tobias Churton
8. The Frenzied Beast: The Phaedran Furores in the Rites and Writings of Aleister Crowley - Matthew D. Rogers
9. Aleister Crowley: Freemason! - Martin P. Starr
10. ''The One Thought that was not Untrue'': Aleister Crowley and A. E. Waite - Robert R. Gilbert
11. The Beast and the Prophet: Aleister Crowley's Fascination with Joseph Smith - Massimo Introvigne
12. Crowley and Wicca - Ronald Hutton
13. Through the Witch's Looking Glass: The Magick of Aleister Crowley and the Witchcraft of Rosaleen Norton - Keith Richmond
14. The Occult Roots of Scientology? L. Ron Hubbard, Aleister Crowley and the Origins of the World's Most Controversial New Religion - Hugh Urban
15. Satan and the Beast. The Influence of Aleister Crowley on Modern Satanism - Asbjørn Dyrendal

"One would be hard-pressed to put together an assemblage of people to equal the scholars included in this collection-the cream of the crop of those esoteric scholars who have studied Crowley. The volume makes a significant contribution to esoteric studies and will set future debates about Crowley. It will be a must-read text for all esoteric scholars in the next generation."
--J. Gordon Melton, Distinguished Professor of American Religious History, Baylor University 

Sections of the book can be previewed at

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