At times I think that there is no better proof of the theory that Thelema originated from outside of Crowley than by reading Crowley.
“…just as the American, knowing himself to be of the filthiest dregs of mankind, pretends that there is no such thing as natural aristocracy, though to be sure he gives himself away badly enough when confronted with either a n****r or a gentleman, since to ape dominance is the complement of his natural slavishness.”
And that wasn’t even Aleister at his most offensive.
I think it enormously funny that, as it turned out, if it were not for an American named Major Grady L. McMurtry, the OTO (and by extension Thelema itself) would almost certainly not exist at all. Or if it did, it would not resemble much of the vision that Crowley received. After Crowley’s first successor, Karl Germer, died without providing for the continuance of the OTO, the only functioning Ordo Templi Orientis lodge in the world was the one in California. The fact that Maj. McMurtry stepped in, upon learning of Germer’s death, to reorganize and revitalize the OTO, is the decisive historical action that saved the OTO (and by extension Thelema). The story of how McMurtry pulled this off is worthy of a novel or a movie, and makes for fascinating reading.
So much for the “filthiest dregs of mankind.”
I find that Crowley is enormously frustrating to read at times. On his own, without inspiration, he seems nearly incapable of writing a coherent sentence. He loaded down his “essays” (which in truth were often harangues) with references that would be obscure even to people of his day. Even when he tried, he nearly always clouded what points he was trying to make with convoluted grammatical folderol and words that were obsolete before he was born. His non-religious poetry is unreadable. He is casually racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic, which irritates me to no end. He seems, when he is not under inspiration, to be an insufferable prick, an over-educated Imperialist child of British privilege who (I think in my worst moments, when I am angry at him) resembles no modern figure as much as Rush Limbaugh – that is, when he is not under inspiration.
When seized by the Gods, as in Liber AL vel Legis, or as when he wrote the Gnostic Mass, his writing changes. It is no less difficult for me to figure out, but there is a fire within it and a beauty that testifies of its origins from Nuit, Hadit, and Ra Hoor Khuit – or, if one is skeptical, the very best part of Crowley’s imagination and writing skills. The achievements he makes when he is under inspiration seem impossible for him to achieve when he is writing on his own. Note how he bogs down in “The Law Is For All,” his attempt at explaining Liber AL (The Book of the Law). He becomes distracted with odd bits of Gematria and Kabalistic dead ends, and goes off on tangents that seemingly have nothing to do with what he is supposed to be writing about. It seems sometimes as if he himself does not understand the Book of the Law, and in his most honest moments he admits the same. The painful doggerel of “AHA!” – his attempted verse retelling of Liber AL and the concepts in it – is agonizing for me to try to read, particularly in contrast to the work of the best poets of his day. Even when he wrote his at his best on non-religious subjects, I feel the man needed a ruthless editor.
It is hard for me not to wonder why the Gods chose such a brilliant but terribly flawed person to introduce the New Aeon to the world. Perhaps it is just as well that Thelema’s “prophet” was so obviously imperfect, so that people would look where he was pointing, rather than at his finger. I think about that when I run into something like the above, and I also remind myself of the words of Rodney Orpheus, an OTO initiate who states in his book Abrahadabra that he is “a Thelemite, not a Crowleyite.” Sometimes, I am honestly relieved that there is a distinction.