In the Papers Wednesday, Nov 22 2006 

In which our intrepid hero gets a chance to read newspapers—for the first time in a while.

I came across some interesting newspaper articles today.

I’ve been blogging a bit about an Aleister Crowley biography that I’ve been reading (more to come soon, I promise!), and all of a sudden, I stumbled across this article in The Age, containing claims against the Australian arm of the OTO. The Satanic Panic is still alive and kicking, it seems. I just wonder how long it’ll be before they start going after roleplayers again…

Also in Melbourne, someone stole live overhead cabling from the rail system, stranding hundreds of commuters during peak hour. Maybe the two are linked…

I also (very randomly) came across a list of tourist highlights in Sydney, from (of all places) the New York Times. I went into instant prole shock as I read it: how the hell can anyone contemplate spending $AU360 a night for accommodation? Or the amounts they suggest for many of the so-called other “sights” in the article?

Granted, I’ve done Captain Cook Cruises’ coffee cruise (which I won in a trivia fundraiser) and have enjoyed Taronga Zoo once or twice, but most of the other attractions, I suspect, must’ve had some sort of commercial arrangement with the NYT.

In short, if you’re a superficial twit with far too many greenbacks to throw around, then by all means, the NYT article is spot-on. But if you object to paying for everything through the nose and hobnobbing it with the bar equivalent of the banana slug, then by all means consult a local before you come here.

Then again, I guess that applies everywhere.

    Less Crowleyana Monday, Nov 13 2006 

    In which our intrepid hero admits to not getting nearly as much reading done on the weekend as he’d like.

    I’ve had a relatively quiet couple of days; the closest thing I had to an outing was to pick up George Alec Effinger’s Marîd Audran trilogy (When Gravity Fails, Fire in the Sun and The Exile’s Kiss) from the post office, after my sister was done reading them.

    I spent a fair amount of time dozing on the couch, starting—but not finishing—DVDs, catching up on reading Ptolus (I’m now about halfway through, I think) and reading various Call of Cthulhu-related stuff.

    And I finally found the CoC stats for Crowley—they were in Tatters of the King. He slags off one the antagonists, then invites a female PC over for an orgy. Feh. I bow before its almighty, tepid fehness.

    That sort of deal is the whackjob occultist equivalent of bumping into John Wayne Gacy at a trade show for clowns. I wouldn’t want to throw in too many spoilers, but there are much better uses for Crowley, particularly with regard to the plot of Tatters of the King.

    (Only marginally related, I’m constantly amazed by the number of out-of-the-way in-references in CoC scenarios. I was particularly struck on the weekend by one—relatively minor—character in Horror on the Orient Express.

    I won’t give his identity away, as I intend to use him—and some of my players read this blog—but he was previously a member of both the Golden Dawn and the Silver Twilight. Sadly, he dropped off the scene just before Crowley joined the Golden Dawn, but may well have heard of Crowley by reputation—particularly given the shenanigans that Crowley and Mathers got up to, trying to wrest control of the Isis-Urania Temple in London from the Second Order.

    Note to self: should probably write a blog entry on the Isis-Urania conflict.)

    Usually, I’m in the middle of reading two books at any one moment, and scanning bits here-and-there from several others. I’ll read one on the train, to and from work (currently Do What Thou Wilt), and one at home (currently Ptolus, fortunate because its sheer heft makes it somewhat less than portable).

    However, with a load of printouts from work to read on Friday, and having bumped into both my ex-flatmate and a co-worker on the train this morning, I didn’t get much time to devote to Do What Thou Wilt. Not that it’s a particular worry, as it’s hit a relatively boring bit: Crowley plans an assault on Kangchenjunga, his wife has an abortion, and Crowley gets to diarise his misogyny.

    One thing did strike me as a bit odd, though:

    “Rosa Mystica,” also included in Snowdrops, is an obscene play upon the doctrine of immaculate conception […] The opening two lines give us a sense of the whole: “Rose, that you are a little sod/Your shapely pouting asshole shows.”

    [T]he tone of the poems are playful, and Rose may well be believed to have enjoyed them (the participation of her own brother in the editing process lends credence to Crowley’s testimony here)—

    Whoah, there. Now, I’m hardly a prude, but I find it a little outré—even for someone of Crowley’s reputation—to say, “Hey, got some new poems for you, including several on how much your sister likes being pounded in the butt. Happy proofreading!” Especially since the brother in question, Gerald Kelly, was a close friend who was nonetheless outraged by the marriage.

    Then again, not much about Crowley’s interpersonal conduct could really be misinterpreted as normal…

      More Crowleyana Friday, Nov 10 2006 

      In which our intrepid hero blogs his marginalia.

      I’m currently a bit over 130 pages into Lawrence Sutin’s Do What Thou Wilt, a biography of Aleister Crowley, and it’s got some doozies in’t. Some examples:

      Rabelais, in the concluding chapters of his Gargantua (1534), described an ideal community—one drawn in distinct contrast to what Rabelais saw as the corruption rife within the Christian monastic orders—named “Theleme”. The governing maxim of this community was “Do what you will”. In his later essay “The Antecedents of Thelema” (1926), Crowley claimed that Rabelais had, in his Gargantua, foreseen the future coming of Crowley, the Great Beast.

      Goddamn, I wish I’d had the balls to pull that one at university: “It’s not plagiarism, Professor—it’s the fulfillment of prophecy!”

      Crowley promptly devoted himself for sixty-seven consecutive hours—without so much as taking a meal—to the composition of Tannhäuser, a “poetical and magical” drama […] In Act IV, there is a scene in which Tannhäuser seems to merge with Crowley pursuing sex in the slums of Mexico:

      Mine was, with weariness of blood and brain,
      More bitter fruit of pain
      Sought in the darkness of a harlot’s bed,
      To take me as one dead:
      To loose the girders of the soul, and gain
      Breathing and life for the Intelligible;
      Find death, yet find it living. Deep as Hell
      I plunged the soul; by all blind Heaven unbound
      The spirit, freed, pierced through the maze profound,
      And knew Itself, an eagle for a dove.

      Crowley privately published Tannhäuser in 1902 with a “Preface” that stressed the element of self-portraiture. He dreamed it a study in “the morbid psychology of the Adept” and avowed that it had “been written in the blood of slain faith and hope.”

      If ever I end up running a homebrew Unknown Armies campaign, I’m seriously going to have to look Tannhäuser up.

      [Crowley] described [Aiwass’] voice as “a rich tenor or baritone” of “deep timbre, musical and expressive, its tones solemn, voluptuous, tender, fierce, or aught else as suited the moods of the message.” Aiwass spoke without accent—it sounded to Crowley like a pure “English-in-itself.”

      Crowley […] never actually saw Aiwass. He heard the voice coming from behind him, seemingly from a corner of the room. And yet Crowley experienced, during the three days [that Aiwass dictated The Book of the Law to Crowley in Cairo in April 1904], a “visualization” of Aiwass within his own “imagination.” In this visualization, Aiwass possessed “a body of ‘fine matter,’ or astral matter, transparent as a veil of gauze or a cloud of incense-smoke. He seemed to be a tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw.” The clothing of Aiwass suggested Assyrian or Persian, as opposed to Arab, dress. […]

      He would, in decades to come, frequently weigh and revise this assessment. Aiwass would become, during these ruminations, “a God or Demon or Devil”; and/or a “praeterhuman” intelligence; and/or a minister or messenger of other Gods […] Crowley had “been permitted to see Him in recent years in a variety of physical appearances, all equally ‘material’ in the sense in which my own body is so.” Yet, despite these sightings, of certainty there was none.

      I know I’m certainly not the first person to suggest it, but this just screams Nyarlathotep. I know I have Call of Cthulhu stats for Crowley somewhere. I can’t wait to see Crowley’s movements between 1925 and 1929—he might be a nice diversion to drop into Masks of Nyarlathotep.

      I’m also planning to use Yeats’ poetry to add a bit of flavour to the campaign, and (as any good Crowley bio should) Do What Thou Wilt has Yeats aplenty. I really, really, really wish I’d been able to pick up a copy of Pagan Publishing’s Golden Dawn sourcebook when it was in print.

        The Man with the Golden Dawn Monday, Nov 6 2006 

        In which our intrepid hero bisociates wildly, and thinks he might be onto something.

        I’m getting towards the end of Rules for Radicals (sort of like Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War, but for political organisers), and it’s come time to select the next book I want to read. It’ll probably be a biography on Aleister Crowley.

        A few years ago, I bought The World at War on DVD, but until now I’ve been reluctant to watch the whole thing, some 22½ hours of it. I’m coming to the end, now, and one episode on the SS reminded me of something I’ve always found fascinating about Nazism: the movement’s occult roots.

        The Nazis’ eugenics policy was (I’m led to believe) firmly rooted in the teachings of one Jörg Lanz, a defrocked Jesuit theosophist from Austria, whose magazine, Ostara, was avidly read by one Adolf Hitler in his youth. More theosophical wackiness derived from the Thule Gesselschaft, and the SS apparently fancied itself as some sort of Aryan Jesuit order.

        And then there are the Nazi archaeologists a la Indiana Jones, the Ahnenerbe, and Himmler’s infamous (but difficult to pin down) witch-hunting historians, Sonderkommando H.

        Some months ago, however, I came across a reference to Aleister Crowley. I have to admit that I’m fascinated with the guy (and not just because he’s my superlatively not-weird, near-best friend Belinda’s favourite author): they just don’t make ’em like Crowley any more.

        The story goes that in one of the falling-outs that seemed to occur prolifically in Crowley’s wake, the German arm of the AA/Thelema/Ordo Templi Orientis movement (henceforth known as the Crowley Fan Club) came apart and soon came under the spell of a charismatic young Austrian corporal, the enfant terrible of the Berlin occult scene, Adolf Hitler. I own two biographies of Crowley, so it occurred to me last night to look it up.

        Sadly, no dice.

        Crowley Fan, Martha Küntzel, who was first wildly infatuated with Crowley, later went on (as these types are wont to) to be wildly infatuated with Hitler. She’d apparently tried to give Hitler a copy of the Liber AL, and Crowley later on claimed that he’d been some sort of spiritual mentor or pope or Hidden Master to the Nazi regime. Oh, and that Hitler had ripped him off, twisted his teachings, gave him no credit and didn’t cut him in for a share of the Thousand-Year Reich.

        Strangely enough, though, another name came up repeatedly with regard to that period of Crowley’s life. Now, I know there’s a book out there that associates a science-fiction writer named “H” with the early Californian chapter of the OTO (it’s Hubbard, by the way; if it was Heinlein, I’d’ve bought a copy), but this one spun me. Both books mentioned this guy. And he’s a Big Name.

        Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming.

        It seems that Fleming, who was involved in foreign intelligence at the time, first tried to use Crowley as bait to capture Rudolf Hess, and when that didn’t work out, consulted Crowley on using the Nazis’ predilection for the occult against them. He may have even tapped Crowley in order to use the latter’s network of Fan Clubbers to gather intelligence (although many of them had been chewed up and spat out as evil, Masonic Jewish sympathisers or the like).

        It probably says something about the way I think, but the first thing that comes to mind here is the possibility of Bond as occult allegory. Maybe those aren’t adolescent sex fantasies in the movies, after all. They could be alchemical marriages…

        (Incidentally, Crowley’s parents were both Exclusive Brethren. Given the Brethren’s recent involvement in New Zealand and Australian politics, it’s only a matter of time, before some enterprising conspiracy nut comes up with a juicy theory…)