Edward Alexander (Aleister) Crowley was born October
12, 1875 in Leamington Spa, England. His parents were members of the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian sect.
Aleister grew up with a thorough biblical education
and an equally thorough disdain of Christianity.
He attended Trinity College at Cambridge University,
leaving just before completing his degree.
Shortly afterwards he was introduced to George Cecil
Jones, who was a member of
the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
The Golden Dawn was an occult society led by S.L.
MacGregor Mathers which taught magick, kabalah, alchemy, tarot, astrology, and other hermetic subjects.
It had many notable members (including A. E. Waite,
Dion Fortune, and W. B. Yeats), and its influence on the development of modern western occultism was profound.
Crowley was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1898.
He proceeded to climb up rapidly through the
But in 1900 the order was shattered by schism, and
Crowley left England to travel extensively throughout the East.
There he learned and practiced the mental and physical
disciplines of yoga,
supplementing his knowledge of western-style ritual
magick with the methods of Oriental mysticism.
In 1903, Crowley married Rose Kelly, and they went
to Egypt on their honeymoon.
After returning to Cairo in early 1904, Rose (who
until this point had shown no interest or familiarity with the occult) began entering trance states and insisting to her husband
that the god Horus was trying to contact him.
As a test, Crowley took Rose to the Boulak Museum
and asked her to point out Horus to him.
She passed several well-known images of the god and
led Aleister straight to a painted wooden funerary stele from the 26th dynasty, depicting Horus receiving a sacrifice from
the deceased, a priest named Ankh-f-n-khonsu.
Crowley was especially impressed by the fact that
this piece was numbered 666 by the museum, a number with which he had identified since childhood.
He began to listen to Rose, and at her direction,
on three successive days beginning April 8, 1904, he entered his chamber at noon and wrote down what he heard dictated from
a shadowy presence behind him.
The result was the three chapters of verse known as
Liber AL vel Legis, or The Book of the Law.
This book heralded the dawning of the new aeon of
Horus, which would be governed by the Law of Thelema.
As the prophet of this new aeon, Crowley spent the
rest of his life working to develop and establish Thelemic philosophy.
In 1906 Crowley rejoined George Cecil Jones in England,
where they set about the task of creating a magical order to continue where the Golden Dawn had left off.
They called this order the A.'. A.'.
(Astrum Argentium or Silver Star), and it became the
primary vehicle for the transmission of Crowley's mystical and magical training system based on the principles of Thelema.
In 1910 Crowley was contacted by Theodore Reuss,
the head of an organization based in Germany called
Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.).
This group of high-ranking Freemasons claimed to have
discovered the supreme secret of practical magick, which was taught in its highest degrees.
Apparently Crowley agreed, becoming a member of O.T.O.
and eventually taking over as head of the order when Reuss suffered a stroke in 1921.
Crowley reformulated the rites of the O.T.O. to conform
them to the Law of Thelema, and vested the organization with its main purpose of establishing Thelema in the world.
The order also became independent of Freemasonry and
opened its membership to women and men who were not masons.
Aleister Crowley died in Hastings, England
on December 1, 1947.
However, his legacy lives on in the Law of Thelema.