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LaVey, Crowley and Thelema

From: (John Everall)
Subject: Re: LaVey, Crowley and Thelema (was ...)
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 1997 10:19:20 +1040

> (John Everall) to Thelema93-L:
># In Blanche Barton's authorized biography of LaVey (_The Secret Life of a
># Satanist_), LaVey refers to Crowley in disparaging terms as a dull,
># druggie-type. Or words to that effect.

>I have not read that text, but it doesn't surprise me that he said that.
>and is there not substance to his criticism?  regardless of motivation,
>Crowley did have relationships with what are today call 'drugs' that
>extended to what I would describe as 'addiction' and this was integrated
>into his magical work to a certain extent, and his text can often be
>laborious and on the long side.

LaVey certainly has a point. But his cursory dismissal of Crowley is rather
superficial. There is no penetrating critical analysis of A.C., just a
simple "he was dull.He took too many drugs. End of story".

>contrasting, LaVey appears to decry the use of intoxicants as "self-
>destruction" in a very paternal sense, exclaiming their ingestion as
>'stupidity' and that 'no Satanist would destroy himself in that way'
>(I'm paraphrasing).  LaVey also seems to lack depth and length,
>preferring the curt and sly to the extensive and suggestive.  Crowley
>engages in poetry, LaVey in polemic.

I am pretty much in agreement with you here regarding LaVey's position.

># But as Paul rightly notes, Anton's
># lack of regard for Crowley didn't prevent him from plagiarizing the Beast.
>where was this plagiarizing exactly?  I thought I read Paul Hume's post
>on the subject (pretty short and without detailed citation if I recall),
>but I don't remember him saying where this happens either.  it wouldn't
>surprise me, mind you (as he did something similar with Redbeard in SB).

I don't have the appropriate LaVey texts to hand. Will try and locate them
at the weekend.

># To be honest, I don't see many parallels between the 'philosophies' of the
># two men beyond the superficial(bombastic, quasi-Nietzschean, chest-beating
># rhetoric).

>it seems to me that they share at least the value of individualism and
>genius and both repudiate moralism as the basis of ethical action.  neither
>developed coherent, succinct 'philosophies' by which they may be known, and
>yet their religious and philosophical assertions may be extrapolated to form
>some consistent structure in each case, sometimes changing in form over the
>course of their lives.

The above indicates what I mean by superficial resmblance. Your first
sentence could equally apply to Crowley and, say, Camus . Crowley's
ultimate aspirations are of a spiritual nature, whereas Lavey's are
indicative of his predilection for good old-fashioned hedonism.

>it seems fairly plain that one of the things that LaVey and Aquino shared
>was an admiration for Crowley at some point in their relationship, at least
>in terms of self-reliance, personal development, and willful action.  Aquino
>took rather more of the Beast's masonic and Orphic favors to heart where
>LaVey promoted the value of station reflecting material ability and the
>perfection of the uncivilized child ('Crowned and Conquering...') or
>undomesticated animal of a nonhuman species.

I am not too sure if LaVey harboured such admiration for Crowley. I need to
probe more deeply into this.

># LaVey's Satanism is a curious amalgam of "Wierd Tales" type fiction,
>I'd like this elaborated if you would be so kind.  I don't know what you
>are talking about here.  there is hype and hyperbole in LaVey's text,
>but typically this gets away from the kind of thing found in Weird Tales
>fiction.  sometimes he is suggestive to sway the marks, but usually I
>find his text is extremely conservative where 'spirits' are concerned.

LaVey openly expresses his admiration for the likes of Lovecraft, Clark
Ashton Smith, et al. Also the sadly neglected British author, William Hope
Hodgson, whose "Carnacki" stories stimulated LaVey's interest in occult
matters. He explicitly states that Carnacki & John Silence stories were far
more influential in his development than 'accepted' occult works, which he
considered monstrously tedious. Also he mocks occultists for utilizing
protective measures; adding that he wanted to be 'possessed' by entities
that are traditionally regarded as 'evil'. As to LaVey & spirits, he claims
to have worked as a ghostbuster, exorcist, etc, so from Barton's book one
ineluctably comes to the conclusion that LaVey accepts the reality of
transmundane entities.

>a contrary example would of course be his shpeel about Jane Mansfield
>and his connection to her death.  he often uses this as a sort of
>'anecdote about the possible powers of magical spells'.  often he
>prefaces with a disclaimer or two, however, and he seldom that I have
>seen goes the distance in claiming occult power.  his followers will
>occasionally do that for him, but that's another matter.

Again, I refer you to Barton's book, where he explicitly makes such claims.

># Social Darwinism,
>I haven't noticed any developed theory of Social Darwinism in LaVey,
>though the elemental assertions ('Law of the Jungle', etc.) are
>present.  in contrast, Crowley seems to have argued the same thing
>from a subjectivist perspective, blurring the epistemological
>problems without clear discussion of them by usage of multiple
>forms of phraseology ('will', 'Will' and 'True Will') and a lack of
>specificity as regards how knowledge of any of these may be obtained.

I interviewed Boyd Rice a couple of years ago(who pretty much seems to be
Anton's right-hand man these days) & he was very clear concerning the
prominent position Social Darwinism occupied within the LaVeyan scheme.
Also as Patrick points out, COS publications are awash with Social
Darwinist perspectives.

># Stirnerite egoism:
>please explain this, I have no idea what you mean.

Max Stirner. Early 19th C. German philosopher & exponent of extreme
individualism. Little known these days outside anarcho-individualist
circles, but celebrated in his day and profooundly influential in
Nietzsche's development. His classic text is "The Ego and His Own"

># all salted with a heavy dash of misanthropy.
>there seems to have been some of that in both men's work, though Crowley
>seems to more often deride what LaVey would call 'the herd', and both
>will associate this with organized Christianity, finding succor in the
>inversion of Christian caricatures for liberative and revolutionary value.
>in *neither* case would I describe what they wrote as general misanthropy,
>though they do appear to lament the condition of the 'unexamined life'.
>this is not uncommon among philosophers and poets.

Please consult LaVey's essay "Misanthropia". Published in "Rants" (AMOK
books. eds Black/Parfrey). LaVeyan misanthropy, par excellence.

># He also exhibits a profound distaste for Occultists in general - referring
># to them as "occultniks".
>LaVey's attitude toward religious and occultists is remarkably similar to
>how Crowley sometimes treats Spiritualists, Mediums and what he might call
>the unpersuasive Christian (e.g. Mary Baker Eddy).  they both appear to
>castigate their targets for a lack of adherence to the 'scientific'
>standards they would apply in the creation of their knowledge-systems.
>LaVey often seems more quick to dismiss, where Crowley, at times having
>completed a more thorough investigation, will appear the genuine opponent
>rather a mere propagandist.

LaVey appears to regard occultists as self-deluding fools. I will try to
find the relevant text.

># He does possess a wickedly redeeming sense of humour,though!
>it is this reason that I favor his text -- his wry humor.  very often
>he poises on the fence while implying harsh criticism.  his targets
>are more often straw men than not, and so one must come to see what
>his real objectives are by projecting the results of carrying out his
>assertions.  Crowley is more up-front (and possibly more biased) as
>regards the subjects he covers, and yet there are times (such as in
>_Book Four_) when he delves into them with insight.
>in sum, inasmuch as Thelema includes a concentration on individualism,
>liberation and willful revolt against oppressive authority, so is the
>Satanism of LaVey stridently Thelemic.  a comparison of LaVey and
>Crowley doesn't provide a fair review as the latter does not represent
>the only standard of Thelemic quality.  such a comparison does bring
>into relief some of the similarities betwixt the two men and their
>approach to expression and their lives, and I look forward to hearing
>more and varied analyses than that above.

I agree to a certain extent with what you have written above, but if we
call a thing Thelemic because it satisfies the three conditions you
outline, then Existentialism qualifies, as does Anarchism, Dada, etc. So we
drag out the entire gamut of antinomian ideas and we come close to the
Romanticism versus Classicism, radicalism versus traditionalism, etc etc
debate. So we have the Burroughsian quasi-Manichean situation with
protracted conflict between the forces of liberation and those representing


John Everall.

"Variability of interpretation is the one constant law of mass communications"

Umberto Eco
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