The most notorious member of the Golden Dawn, Crowley has been billed as the greatest magician of the twentieth century. Initiated into the order in 1898, he tried to take control two years later and was ousted. He subsequently formed his own secret society, called Astrum Argentinum, or Silver Star, and became a Freemason. In 1914, he joined the Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Templars of the Orient, or OTO) and later became its head.
A charismatic figure who excelled at publicity, Crowley was a relentless self-promoter. He grabbed headlines by shocking the public. He was branded “the king of depravity” and referred to himself as “The Beast.” Much of the negative press concerning Crowley stemmed from his involvement in sex magic (discussed in Chapter 6), which appalled Victorian England.
In 1920, after inheriting a modest sum of money, Crowley consulted the I Ching about where he should go to carry on his magical activities. Based on the oracle's advice, he established a temple at Cefalù, a port in northern Sicily. For a period, the retreat enjoyed a steady stream of visitors eager to study under the legendary Crowley. When he returned to England, Crowley authored a number of books including
Although many questions surround Crowley's ideas, ethics, and activities, he was well versed in spiritual traditions and occult knowledge. His influence on the field of sex magic, in particular, remains unparalleled, and much of what's practiced today is rooted in Crowley's pursuits.
In partnership with Lady Frieda Harris, Crowley created the Thoth tarot deck, which today, nearly a century after its inception, remains one of the most popular decks. Based on