Aleister Crowley died on this day in 1947 in a Hastings boarding house. Reports of his last moments vary considerably; his parting words may have been “I’m perplexed”, or he may have uttered “Sometimes I hate myself”. His departure may or may not have been accompanied by celestial applause in the form of a clap of thunder. There were few parts of Crowley’s existence which were not subject to differing accounts and interpretations; this last scene was unusual only in that Crowley himself didn’t have the opportunity to add to the confusion, as he had with the rest of his life story.
The video below offers a good primer for anyone not familiar with “the man who called himself the Beast 666, black magician, drug fiend, sex addict and traitor to the British people.” There’s sodomy in the Sahara, Sicilian sex rituals, psychotropic Satanic savagery and lots more serpentine sibilants besides. Crowley leaves death and madness in his wake as he erases the personalities of his followers and replaces them with the new creed revealed to him and laid down in The Book of the Law.
Excerpts from Crowley’s writings are voiced with gamey relish by Steven Berkoff. If you’re watching this from your cubicle at Bachmann & Associates you may want to turn down the sound; there are descriptions (though not depictions) of the outer limits of drug-fuelled sexual activity.