Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friend of the Devil

I've been meaning to post a blog on what I learned about Aleister Crowley that I didn't know before after reading Tobias Churton's excellent ALEISTER CROWLEY - the BIOGRAPHY. Quite a few very interesting and insightful details about his life and work get revealed in this book. An excellent review of it lives on the website.

Today I'll discuss one of these new insights: the fact that Crowley identified with Christ. This becomes apparent relatively soon to anyone who has spent time working with his exercises and learned his lexicon but I've not seen it stated so directly as it appears in Churton's book. Apparently it's from a diary entry.

How can it be? The Great Beast Himself, whose number is 666, a number considered the number of the Anti-Christ in popular religious superstition .... identifying with Christ????

For one thing, this doesn't mean that Crowley identified with the historical Jesus. Christ is a title that refers to a position, a post, or a station - one way of being and working. Christ was not Jesus' last name, his parents were not Mr. and Mrs. Christ. It would appear more accurate to call him Jesus the Christ.

That Crowley identified with both Christ and the Great Beast of Revelations seems to me like an honest portrayal of his situation ie that the expansion of his morphology in the role he identified with reached both god-like heights and beastly depths. Nothing sinster, depraved or indulgent about that, just a condition of that work. Maybe, maybe not.

Another answer could turn up in Crowley's love of the teachings of the tao and it's doctrine regarding the union of opposites. As it goes in this example, the Anti-Christ appears as another aspect of Christ, two sides of the same coin.

The Great Beast, as Crowley understood and ran with it, has absolutely nothing to do with malevolence or evil. To Crowley, the Devil didn't exist, a unified being of chaos making for too much of a contradiction for manifested existence.

The Devil seems descended from the Old Testament concept of Ha-Satan, the Holy Adversary, an Angel who instigates tests and provides challenges and obstacles to mankind to ultimately help it to evolve. From this view, 'he' seems another, perhaps sometimes annoying, function of the Creative Principle.

Good ole Wikipedia has

the Devil has assumed more of a dualistic status commonly associated with heretics, infidels, and other unbelievers. As such, the Devil is seen as an allegory that represents a crisis of faith, individualism, free will, wisdom and enlightenment.

The youth culture of the 60's sees the devil evolving into more of a trickster role. The Rolling Stones sang for sympathy and had the line, "but what's puzzling you is just the nature of my game." with the game as described above.

Crowley's role as a devil in contemporary society also fits the description given by wiki.

And so I offer this video of Jerry Garcia and David Grisman playing Friend of the Devil, a song with an adventure to tell:


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- William Butler Yeats

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