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The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Aleister Crowley and the Magical Exploration of Edwardian Subjectivity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2014


In late 1909, two Englishmen, scions of the comfortable middle classes, undertook a journey to Algiers. Aleister Crowley, later to be dubbed “the wickedest man in the world,” was in his early thirties; his companion, Victor Neuburg, had only recently graduated from Cambridge. The stated purpose of the trip was pleasure. Crowley, widely traveled and an experienced mountaineer and big-game hunter, loved North Africa and had personal reasons for wanting to be out of England. Neuburg probably had little say in the matter. Junior in years, dreamy and mystical by nature, and in awe of a man whom he both loved and admired, Neuburg was inclined to acquiesce without demur in Crowley's various projects. There was, however, another highly significant factor in Neuburg's quiescence. He was Crowley's chela, a novice initiate of the magical Order of the Silver Star which Crowley had founded two years earlier. As such, Neuburg had taken a vow of obedience to Crowley as his Master and affectionately dubbed “holy guru” and had already learned that in much that related to his life Crowley's word was now law. It was at Crowley's instigation that the two men began to make their way, first by tram and then by foot, into the North African desert to the southwest of Algiers; and it was Crowley's decision to perform there a series of magical ceremonies which prefigured his elaboration of the techniques of sex magic. In this case, the ceremonies combined the performance of advanced ritual magic with homosexual acts.

Research Article
Copyright © North American Conference of British Studies 1997

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1 To date, there has been no scholarly historical treatment of modern magic, its place within nineteenth-century occultism, or its relationship to broader social and cultural themes. This is undoubtedly due in part to the arcane nature of much magical material, the traditional secrecy surrounding magical orders, and the difficulties involved in accessing reliable sources. The situation, however, is slowly changing. The publication of some revered and secret Victorian material (see, e.g., Regardie, Israel, The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic [Phoenix, 1984])Google Scholar, and the acquisition of private collections by research institutes and libraries is making the study of modern magic more manageable. Following the second occult revival of the 1960s, a number of general books have ap-peared on magic. These are usually the work of informed occultists. See, e.g., King, Francis, Modern Ritual Magic: The Rise of Western Occultism (1970; reprint, Bridport, 1989)Google Scholar.

2 Long neglected as an area of scholarly study, occultism received relatively scant treatment at the hands of historians. Recent studies have begun to rectify the situation, and there is growing interest in British, European (including Russian), and American movements. British studies include Brandon, Ruth, The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (New York, 1983)Google Scholar; Burfield, Diana, “Theosophy and Feminism: Some Explorations in Nineteenth Century Biography,” in Women's Religious Experience, ed. Holden, Pat (London, 1983)Google Scholar; Oppenheim, Janet, The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850–1914 (Cambridge, 1985)Google Scholar; Barrow, Logie, Independent Spirits: Spiritualism and English Plebeians, 1850–1910 (London, 1986)Google Scholar; Owen, Alex, The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England (London, 1989; Philadelphia, 1990)Google Scholar; and Dixon, Joy, “Gender, Politics, and Culture in the New Age: Theosophy in England, 1880–1935” (Ph.D. diss., Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, January 1993)Google Scholar.

3 The history of the Rosicrucian tradition is a vexed one, but we know that a secret Rosicrucian Masonic Order, the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, was founded in England in 1865. Its membership was involved in the formation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, to which this essay subsequently refers. The term “Rosicrucian” derives from the name “Rosencreutz” or “Rose Cross.” “Christian Rosencreutz” first makes his appearance in the so-called “Rosicrucian manifestos,” two short pamphlets which are usually abbreviated as the Fama and the Confessio, which were published at Cassel in 1614 and 1615. A third pamphlet, translated from the German as The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, was published in 1616. Yates, Frances A., The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London, 1972)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, suggests that the seventeenth-century Rosicrucian movement was in part an allegory for a renewed “general reformation” based on a strengthened Protestant alliance with Frederick V, elector palatine of the Rhine, at its center. I am indebted to her account, and to her explication of the Renaissance Hermetic tradition in Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago, 1964)Google Scholar. For an account of Rosicrucianism written by an Hermetic scholar and early member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, see Waite, Arthur E., Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross (London, 1924)Google Scholar.

4 The vast body of literature ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, thought by the Renaissance magi to be an ancient Egyptian priest, was probably the work of various unknown Greek authors. Isaac Casaubon (1559–1614) revealed the Hermetic writings to be more modern in origin, and scholars currently assume dates ranging from A.D. 100 to 300. See Fowden, Garth, The Egyptian Hermes (Cambridge, 1986)Google Scholar; Yates, , Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, pp. 23Google Scholar; Grafton, Anthony, Defenders of the Text (Cambridge, 1991), p. 163Google Scholar.

5 Several reliable and relatively recent studies of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn have helped to throw light on its organizational structure and membership. Particularly valuable because they include or draw on privately printed and unpublished sources, and are written by scholarly enthusiasts (rather than enthusiastic occultists), are Howe, Ellic, The Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order, 1887–1923 (London, 1972)Google Scholar; Gilbert, R. A., The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1983)Google Scholar, and The Golden Dawn Companion: A Guide to the History, Structure, and Workings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1986)Google Scholar. Yeats's scholarship has been enormously helpful in unraveling the complexities of the Golden Dawn and contextualizing it in literary and intellectual terms; see, for an early influential example, Harper, George Mills, Yeats's Golden Dawn (London, 1974)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 The Second Order was established in 1892 and had a different name: Ordo Roseae Rubeae at Aureae Crucis (the Red Rose and the Cross of Gold). For the sake of clarity, however, I will follow the usual practice of referring to both orders as the Order of the Golden Dawn.

7 For fin-de-siècle French magic/occultism, which was much less “respectable” in tone, see McIntosh, Christopher, Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival (New York, 1972)Google Scholar; Pincus-Witten, Robert, Occult Symbolism in France: Joséphin Péladan and the Salons de la Rose-Croix (New York, 1976)Google Scholar.

8 See The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, ed. Symonds, John and Grant, Kenneth (London, 1989), p. 626Google Scholar. Crowley wrote or dictated what he called his “autohagiography” during the 1920s, and it first appeared in edited form in the late 1960s. Crowley's reference to horns is, as we shall see, significant. His statement here is typical. Although he was writing tongue in cheek, he enjoyed a joke at Neuburg's expense, and probably did order the younger man to shave his head.

9 John Dee (1527–1608) recorded these experiences in his spiritual diary, published by Meric Casaubon in 1659 as A True and Faithful Relation of what passed for many years between Dr. John Dee … and some spirits … (London, 1659)Google Scholar. Dee's system, often referred to as the Book of Enoch, is in manuscript form, British Museum, London, Sloane MSS. 3189. It was, as we shall see, understood and taught by senior adepts of the Golden Dawn. Agrippa's “Ziruph Tables” appear in his De occulta philosophia, pp. 111, 24, first published in 1533. See Yates, , Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, pp. 130–56Google Scholar.

10 The Golden Dawn followed Eliphas Lévi, the French occultist, in referring to planes other than the physical as the Astral Light. It has a somewhat different meaning from the “astral plane” of the Theosophists. See King, , Modern Ritual Magic, p. 56Google Scholar.

11 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 616Google Scholar.

12 Ibid. Crowley provides an early description of the Aethyrs (presumably based on Neuburg's notes and his own memory) in The Vision and the Voice,” Equinox 1, no. 5, suppl. (March 1911): 1176Google Scholar. He asked Israel Regardie to prepare a full manuscript version in 1929, and the subsequent published edition is based on this manuscript together with Regardie's introduction. See Crowley, Aleister, The Vision and the Voice (Dallas, 1972)Google Scholar. The Vision and the Voice is precisely that: a record of Crowley's visions in the Aethyrs, and of the voices he heard there.

13 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 619Google Scholar.

14 Ibid., p. 621.

15 See Archer, Ethel, The Hieroglyph (London, 1932)Google Scholar. This loosely autobiographical novel provides compelling portraits of Crowley and Neuburg during the pre-1914 period. Archer's descriptions of Newton in the novel reflect the general observations about Neuburg. They emphasize his infectious “irresponsible” laughter, youthful features, and “faunlike” appearance. Neuburg retained a fay, elfin quality throughout his life.

16 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 621Google Scholar. The Vision and the Voice, p. 134, n. 9, gives scant details of the “sacrifice.” See also Fuller, Jean Overton, The Magical Dilemma of Victor Neuburg (London, 1965), pp. 154–55Google Scholar. Overton Fuller knew Neuburg during the 1930s, and her book (while not always accurate about the occult) is an invaluable source of biographical information. Crowley and Neuburg went on to perfect a form of homosexual magical Working before their final bitter separation in 1914. See also n. 75 below.

17 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 621Google Scholar.

18 Crowley, , The Vision and the Voice, p. 153Google Scholar.

19 Symonds, John, King of the Shadow Realm (London, 1989), p. 118Google Scholar, notes that this is the only recorded instance of a magician seating himself within the triangle during an evocation. If Crowley really knew what he was doing, he must also have known that in magical terms he was taking a tremendous risk. He was inviting obsession by the demon. Crowley is cautious about revealing his exact position, perhaps not wanting others to emulate him, but it is clear from The Vision and the Voice that he was indeed inside the triangle.

20 Crowley, , The Vision and the Voice, p. 161Google Scholar. The phrase “I am I” has a Biblical resonance, but it was also used in Madame Blavatsky's The Key to Theosophy to connote “the true individuality” (as opposed to the temporal personality) of a human being. Although Crowley did not adhere consistently to a Theosophical understanding of the self, he would certainly have been familiar with Blavatsky's work. See Blavatsky, H. P., The Key to Theosophy (1889; reprint, London, 1968), pp. 3334Google Scholar.

21 Crowley, , The Vision and the Voice, p. 162Google Scholar.

22 Crowley, , Confessions (n. 8 above), p. 623Google Scholar.

23 This name had tremendous significance for Crowley. Its symbolism is complex, but the spelling is an adaptation of the Babylon of the Apocalypse as given to him in The Book of the Law (London, 1938)Google Scholar (referred to hereafter). Crowley later recognized BABALON as the feminine or androgynous equivalent of Pan. The name was synonymous for him with the biblical Scarlet Woman, the title later bestowed on his most important female lovers and magical consorts.

24 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 623Google Scholar.

25 Ibid., p. 624.

26 Regardie, Israel, The Eye in the Triangle: An Interpretation of Aleister Crowley (Las Vegas, 1989), pp. 409–10Google Scholar.

27 Crowley, Aleister, “The Soul of the Desert,” The Occult Review 20 (July–December 1914): 18Google Scholar. The full citation reads: “‘I, too, am the Soul of the Desert; thou shall seek me yet again in the wilderness of sand.’—Liber LXV. v. 61.” (This is a reference to Crowley, Aleister, Liber LXV, The Book of the Heart girt with the Serpent [London, 19091910])Google Scholar.

28 Crowley, Aleister, The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz (n.p., 1910; reprint, Chicago, 1991), p. 117Google Scholar. Crowley had experimented with hashish since 1906 and had discovered that controlled use could “push introspection to the limit.” He wrote and later published The Herb Dangerous—(Part 2) The Psychology of Hashish,” Equinox 1, no. 2 (September 1909): 3189Google Scholar, in which he records his views. See also Crowley, , Confessions, p. 586Google Scholar.

29 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 587Google Scholar.

30 The milestone text in this fast developing genre is Said's, EdwardOrientalism (New York, 1978)Google Scholar, but earlier commentators were not slow to recognize the construction of a particular “Arabia” in the writing of explorers and travelers. See, e.g., Allah, Ahmad ‘Abd and Pakenham, T. Compton, Dreamers of Empire (London, 1930)Google Scholar; Kiernan, R. H., The Unveiling of Arabia (London, 1937)Google Scholar; Assad, Thomas J., Three Victorian Travellers: Burton, Blount, Doughty (London, 1964)Google Scholar; Foss, Michael, “Dangerous Guides: English Writers and the Desert,” New Middle East 9 (June 1969): 3842Google Scholar; and Brent, Peter, Far Arabia, Explorers of the Myth (London, 1977)Google Scholar.

31 The phrase is taken from Doughty, Charles M., Travels in Arabia Deserta (Cambridge, 1888)Google Scholar. The eight genii, according to Crowley, were Sun, Space, Wind, Water, Earth, Fire, Wood, Moon. See “The Soul of the Desert,” p. 21.

32 Richard Burton (1821–90) was the author of numerous books and toward the end of his life concentrated increasingly on the translation and publication for private circulation of erotica. His works include Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah, 3 vols. (London, 18551856)Google Scholar, Wanderings in West Africa, 2 vols. (London, 1863)Google Scholar, Unexplored Syria, with Tyrwhitt-Drake, Charles F., 2 vols. (London, 1872)Google Scholar, The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, trans, with Arbuthnot, F.F. (Cosmopoli [London?], 1883)Google Scholar, A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, 10 vols. (Benares, 18851888)Google Scholar, and The Perfumed Garden of the Cheikh Nefzaoui, translated from the French (Cosmopoli [London?], 1886)Google Scholar.

33 Crowley, , Confessions (n. 8 above), p. 461Google Scholar.

34 Ibid., p. 626.

35 Edward Said's reading of Burton (in Orientalism, pp. 196–97) as a man who preferred Eastern life and culture while retaining an abiding commitment to the concept of empire is applicable to Crowley.

36 Burton, Richard, First Footsteps in East Africa (London, 1856), p. 38Google Scholar, cited in Brodie, Fawn M., The Devil Rides: A Life of Sir Richard Burton (New York, 1967), p. 105Google Scholar.

37 See Richard Burton's “Terminal Essay” in the Arabian Nights. The manuscript on which he was working at the time of his death, The Scented Garden, was a new translation (this time from the original Arabic) of The Perfumed Garden. The projected publication was to include a previously omitted chapter on homosexuality. The themes of homosexuality and castration with which Burton was dealing greatly upset his wife, and she destroyed the manuscript after his death.

38 See Dollimore, Jonathan, Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault (Oxford, 1991), pp. 36CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

39 Crowley, , “The Soul of the Desert” (n. 27 above), p. 18Google Scholar.

40 Ibid., p. 23.

41 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 655Google Scholar.

42 Crowley, , “The Soul of the Desert,” pp. 2223Google Scholar.

43 Ibid., p. 23.

44 Ibid., pp. 23–24. By “magical retirement,” Crowley means a magical retreat—a period devoted to magical practice and spiritual introspection. This was how he viewed the 1909 experiences.

45 Crowley, , Confessions (n. 8 above), pp. 627–28Google Scholar.

46 Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) was born to Edward and Emily Crowley, Plymouth Brethren of the strictest kind. The family fortune had been made in the brewery trade, but Edward Crowley had long since removed himself from direct involvement with the business. The Crowley family lived a retired, respectable life, and, until his death in 1887, Edward Crowley had devoted himself to preaching.

47 See Doane, Mary Ann, “Film and Masquerade: Theorising the Female Spectator,” Screen 23, nos. 3/4 (1982): 7487CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Doane draws on Riviere, Joan, “Womanliness as a Maquerade,” Formations of Pleasure, ed. Burgin, Victor, Donald, James, and Kaplan, Cora (London, 1986), pp. 3544Google Scholar. See, with particular reference to Lawrence, T. E., Silverman, Kaja, “White Skin, Brown Masks: The Double Mimesis, or With Lawrence in Arabia,” Differences 1, no. 5 (1989): 354Google Scholar. It is interesting to note that, while the relationship of Crowley, Burton, and Lawrence to imposture and disguise is different, all three men had a vested interest in masking their origins and uncertain social position.

48 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 204Google Scholar. Denied entry to the Second Order by the London adepts, Crowley had been initiated in Paris by the Golden Dawn's Chief (S. L. MacGregor Mathers), who was at odds with the London leadership.

49 Walkowitz, Judith R., City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (Chicago, 1992), pp. 206–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar, discusses W. T. Stead's journalistic approach to the Ripper crimes and his use of Jekyll and Hyde “as a psychological model of the murderer.”

50 For a discussion of these issues, see Bristow, Edward J., Vice and Vigilance: Purity Movements in Britain since 1700 (Dublin, 1977)Google Scholar; Walkowitz, Judith R., Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State (New York, 1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mort, Frank, Dangerous Sexualities: Medico-moral Politics in England since 1830 (London, 1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Walkowitz, in City of Dreadful Delight, is concerned with the narrative expression of the concept of sexual danger and engages in a detailed discussion of the contradictory implications of Stead's crusade against child prostitution.

51 Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Stories, ed. Calder, Jenni (Harmondsworth, 1979), pp. 94, 83Google Scholar. The quote is cited in a helpful discussion to which I am indebted; see Heath, Stephen, “Psychopathia Sexualis: Stevenson's Strange Case,” in Futures for English, ed. MacCabe, Colin (Manchester, 1988), pp. 96, 97Google Scholar. Heath notes that the initial definite article was absent from the title of the novel in its first edition.

52 Stevenson's wife made this observation in connection with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. See Heath, p. 106, n. 8.

53 Sexology was introduced in Britain by Ellis, Havelock, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, 7 vols., vol. 1 (London, 1897)Google Scholar, published as a set (Philadelphia, 1910); and by Dr.von Krafft-Ebing, Richard, Psychopathia Sexualis: With Especial reference to Contrary Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Legal Study (Stuttgart, 1886; English trans., Philadelphia and London, 1892)Google Scholar, which was published in the same year as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 and led by a group of highly educated individuals, most of whom were Oxbridge men. Its goal was the scrupulous and impartial investigation of paranormal phenomena. The society was extremely interested in spiritualist mediumship as a possible guide to the unknown power of the mind. One of its leaders, Frederic Myers, postulated a “subliminal consciousness” and “subliminal self” as the key to understanding so-called spirit communications and manifestations. See Gauld, Alan, The Founders of Psychical Research (London, 1968), pp. 275312Google Scholar; and Oppenheim (n. 2 above), pp. 249–66.

54 See Charcot, J. M., Leçons du Mardi a la Salpêtrière, Policlinique du Mars, 1889 (Paris, 1889)Google Scholar, and Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System, trans. Sigerson, George (London, 1887)Google Scholar. Charcot drew attention to the sexual nature of hysterical body language with his infamous “arc en cercle”—the orgasmic paroxysm of a major hysterical convulsion. Freud further developed the connection between hysteria and the sexual, drawing attention to the manifestation of physical symptoms as a language of sexuality. Havelock Ellis and Frederic Myers (of the Society for Psychical Research) were among the first to introduce Sigmund Freud's work to Britain during the 1890s.

55 One of the leading exponents of the psychoanalytical perspective was Dr. Francis Israel Regardie (1907–85), who studied with Crowley as a young man. Regardie was expert in both Freudian and Jungian approaches and became a lay analyst. He applied the insights of psychoanalysis to magical practice, but adhered to a belief in the efficacy of magic. See, e.g., Regardie, Israel, The Art and Meaning of Magic (Toddington, 1964)Google Scholar. Regardie's The Eye in the Triangle (n. 26 above) offers a Freudian (oedipal) interpretation of Crowley's visions in the desert.

56 Crowley's Confessions (n. 8 above), written during the early 1920s, are full of references to psychoanalysis, but, in typical fashion, Crowley thought that he understood “the Freudian position” better than Freud (p. 72). Freud, who was a corresponding member of the Society for Psychical Research, was interested in the occult and once remarked in a letter to Hereward Carrington that had he been able to live his life again he would have devoted it to psychical research. See Jones, Ernest, Sigmund Freud: Life and Work (London, 1957), 3:419–20Google Scholar. The Freud-Ferenczi correspondence makes it clear that both men were thinking about the possible significance of occult phenomena during the early twentieth century, somewhat earlier than was thought to have been the case. See The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Firenczi, vol. 1, 1908–14, ed. Brabant, Eva, Falzeder, Ernst, and Giampieri-Deutsch, Patrizia, trans. Hoffer, Peter D. (Cambridge, Mass., 1994)Google Scholar.

57 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 590Google Scholar; Regardie, , Eye in the Triangle, p. 329Google Scholar; Symonds and Grant, eds., n. 1 to chap. 57, in Crowley's, Confessions, p. 929Google Scholar.

58 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 515, 510Google Scholar.

59 [Crowley, Aleister], Magick in Theory and Practice (n.p., 1929), p. xviGoogle Scholar.

60 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 624Google Scholar.

61 John Bull (March 10, 24, 1923), cited by Suster, Gerald, The Legacy of the Beast: The Life, Work and Influence of Aleister Crowley (London, 1988), pp. 8485Google Scholar. Sensationalized accounts of Crowley's Abbey of Thelema in Sicily were appearing in the popular press during this period. The Abbey of Thelema, established in 1920, operated until 1923 when Crowley was expelled from Italy by Mussolini. Its byword, painted above the door, was the Rabelaisian “Do What Thou Wilt.” This was taken from Crowley's Book of the Law (n. 23 above), “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”

62 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 921Google Scholar; see also pp. 628, 661. Crowley had burned through his considerable fortune by his mid-thirties and thereafter was forced to rely on his wits and the support of admirers.

63 Symonds (n. 19 above), p. x, states that, if he had to write Crowley's epitaph, it would be “Aleister Crowley, 1875–1947. He delivered the psychotic goods.” Symonds, well versed in the ways of magic and encyclopedic on the subject of Crowley, does not accept Crowley's estimate of his own magical attainments.

64 See ibid., pp. 287–88.

65 The classic exposition of “the decadence” is Jackson, Holbrook, The Eighteen Nineties: A Review of Art and Ideas at the Close of the Nineteenth Century (London, 1913; reprint, New York, 1966)Google Scholar. For Jackson, The Yellow Book and The Savoy, both new periodicals of the mid-1890s, encapsulated the spirit of fin-de-siècle decadence. Beardsley was art editor for The Yellow Book before moving on to The Savoy.

66 See Showalter, Elaine, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (New York, 1990)Google Scholar.

67 Pollitt, whom Crowley met at Cambridge, performed as Diane de Rougy after the actress, Liane de Pougy. It is noteworthy that Crowley, mindful of the Wilde trial, was keen to defend Pollitt against accusations of “a tendency to androgynity.” See Crowley, , Confessions (n. 8 above), p. 144Google Scholar. Crowley later immortalized Pollitt in his tribute to homosexual love (also a tribute of sorts to Richard Burton's Perfumed Garden), The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz (n. 28 above).

68 See the earlier reference to Dr. Jekyll's inability to speak of Hyde as “I.” In his Confessions, Crowley consistently refers to himself during his childhood years as “he,” stating that it feels as though he is writing about “the behaviour of somebody else” (p. 53). Lengthy discussion of narrative voice is beyond the scope of this essay, but it is worth noting that in the Confessions there is slippage between a child and adult “he.” Equally, much could be made of the fact that Crowley dates his conception of himself as “I” from the moment of his father's death in 1887.

69 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 45Google Scholar.

70 Ibid. Crowley had earlier been deeply in love with his wife, Rose, who was in the process of divorcing him during his 1909 trip to Algiers with Neuburg. The divorce was the major reason for Crowley's decision to leave England at that time. Women were always important in his magical life, and there was a succession of magical consorts, chief among them Leah Hirsig—the “Scarlet Woman” at the Abbey of Thelema.

71 Neuburg, Victor B., “The Romance of Olivia Vane,” in The Triumph of Pan (London, 1910; reprint, London, 1989), p. 145Google Scholar. The introduction to the 1989 facsimile edition of The Triumph of Pan is written by Neuburg's granddaughter, Caroline Robertson, who argues that Neuburg's work cannot be read as straightforwardly “homosexual” poetry. Neuburg certainly had sexual relationships with women and married in 1921. A son was born in 1924, but the marriage was unhappy, and by the early 1930s Neuburg and his wife were living separate lives. Caroline Robertson is anxious to refute the suggestion by Jean Overton Fuller and others that Neuburg's poems are simply “about” Crowley, and she bases her claim on the significance of male/female polarity within the occult tradition and the fact that Neuburg is often talking about spiritual (rather than physical) possession by the god, Pan. Nevertheless, it seems clear that the poems operate simultaneously at several levels and that both Crowley and the Crowley/Neuburg relationship, magical and mundane, are ever present. It seems impossible, e.g., to misunderstand lines like “Sweet wizard, in whose footsteps I have trod / Unto the shrine of the obscene god” (p. 144) or to misinterpret the desert imagery (p. 12). Victor Neuburg published his first book of poetry, A Green Garland, in London in 1908. The Triumph of Pan was widely reviewed, and Katherine Mansfield made it the book of the month in Rhythm.

72 Neuburg, Victor B., “The Triumph of Pan,” in The Triumph of Pan, p. 6Google Scholar.

73 Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London, 1990), p. 61Google Scholar. Theoretically, at least, hermaphroditism and androgyny would imply a self-referential desiring subject.

74 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 603Google Scholar. See also, “The Losl Shepherd,” and references to “Panic” in “The Triumph of Pan,” in Neuburg, The Triumph of Pan.

75 Neuburg (like Norman Mudd, also a follower of Crowley) had been a member of the Pan Society at Cambridge, and the god Pan had cultural importance in the revivalist classical drama and arts of the period. Pan meant much more than this to Crowley and Neuburg, however, and when the two men finally parted in 1914 Crowley apparently ritually cursed Neuburg in a formula said to be linked with the god Pan. Neuburg suffered a nervous collapse and lived thereafter in fear of Crowley's return. Fuller (n. 16 above), p. 239, reports a conversation that took place between Neuburg and a friend in the 1920s during which Neuburg was shaken to be told that he was “awfully goat-like.” He replied: “I was one. A goat was my curse” (original emphasis).

76 Crowley recognized that masochism played an important part in his relationships with women, but he sought to deflect it through gestures of misogynistic contempt: “Masochism, too, is normal to man; for the sex-act is the Descent into Hell of the Saviour.” See Magical Record of the Beast 666: The Diaries of Aleister Crowley, 1914–1920, ed. Symonds, John and Grant, Kenneth (London, 1972), p. 257Google Scholar, in Crowley's diary of 1919–20. Silverman, Kaja, “Masochism and Male Subjectivity,” Camera Obscura 17 (May 1988): 3067CrossRefGoogle Scholar, notes that masochism, traditionally characterized in psychoanalytic theory as “feminine,” is equally a constituent of male and female subjectivity (p. 36).

77 Crowley, , Confessions (n. 8 above), p. 621Google Scholar.

78 See Neuburg, , “The Triumph of Pan,” in The Triumph of Pan, p. 19Google Scholar.

79 The Mark of the Beast is a circle containing the seven-pointed star of Babalon. It symbolizes the cojoining of Babalon and the Beast. See Crowley, , Confessions, p. 789Google Scholar.

80 See A Human Beast Returns,” John Bull (August 30, 1924), cited in Suster (n. 61 above), p. 85Google Scholar.

81 “Occasional Notes,” Pall Mall Gazette (September 10, 1888), cited in Walkowitz, , City of Dreadful Delight (n. 49 above), p. 207Google Scholar.

82 Auerbach, Nina, Private Theatricals: The Lives of the Victorians (Cambridge, Mass., 1990), pp. 7677CrossRefGoogle Scholar, identifies a late Victorian “obsession” with “hybrids”—fairies, wolfmen, vampires, and so on—which becomes “something like the cult of the beast.” Interestingly, she notes that the “noble Victorian enterprise of mighty self-making always threatens to produce, not superior mutations, but monsters.”

83 I am indebted to Jann Matlock for this insight.

84 Crowley, , Confessions, p. 45Google Scholar.

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The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Aleister Crowley and the Magical Exploration of Edwardian Subjectivity
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The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Aleister Crowley and the Magical Exploration of Edwardian Subjectivity
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The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Aleister Crowley and the Magical Exploration of Edwardian Subjectivity
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