The thing about working with Crowley and his system is that there will never be any Bill Cosby moments. Or you could think of them as Osho moments too. Or Ted Haggard nega-epiphanies.
That moment where something is revealed about someone that jars your perception of them and leaves you horribly disappointed and bitter. “No! Cliff Huxtable can’t be a serial rapist! Nooooo!”
Or, “Osho was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh? The guy that was called The Sex Guru? The guy that ripped off all those people for all that money and took over a town to rename it after himself? NO! NO!”
Or, “Wait, you mean that my hero, Reverend Ted Haggard, who preached against homosexuality and sexual immorality…snorted crystal meth with his personal trainer and boned him in the butt? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
And then the post-crisis. Sob sob, boo hoo, the crushing bitterness ensues. The former True Believer ends up cursing all religion, and becomes a bitter Dawkinsist atheist who burns down nativity scenes, posts 47 page long screeds on the internet about how Buddhism causes ebola, and petitions City Hall for permission to lecture the City Council about how all religion is evidence of psychopathy. All that is within your rights to do, of course, but doing it out of bitter disappointment rather than pure clean hate provokes eye rolling and sighing from everyone but you.
None of this happens with Crowley. You know his reputation before you even come to the door.
“WICKEDEST MAN IN THE WORLD!”
“THE MAN WE’D LIKE TO HANG!”
“YOU HAVE TO SACRIFICE ONE OF YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS TO HIM BEFORE YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL IN HIP-HOP! I SAW IT ON THE INTERNET!”
“HE ATE BABIES! HE SAID SO!!”
“HAVE YOU READ ‘LEAH SUBLIME”?? EWWW!”
Etc., etc. and so forth.
The shock with Crowley is reading something he wrote and going “Hey, wait, that made sense.”
That’s almost more shocking. “OK, so this guy said that? Huh. Light, Love, Liberty and Life? Really?”
So all of a sudden you find that this guy who was presented to you as the real live Depravo The Rat was a real, complicated human being with a lot of ideas and a crazy desire to experience the Divine in a completely different way than anybody had tried before.
Now of course some people go the other way and start worshiping Crowley, which is not the way to go about it, either. For one thing, it’s exhausting and expensive (and hazardous to your health) to re-enact everything he got up to. For the other thing, that’s not what he wanted.
“I admit that my visions can never mean to other men as much as they do to me. I do not regret this. All I ask is that my results should convince seekers after truth that there is beyond doubt something worthwhile seeking, attainable by methods more or less like mine. I do not want to father a flock, to be the fetish of fools and fanatics, or the founder of a faith whose followers are content to echo my opinions. I want each man to cut his own way through the jungle.”
So the end result is neither hero worship nor fear and disgust, but curiosity, and a head-scratching feeling: “OK, let me look at this again, because I think I missed something, but I almost got it – I think.” And I don’t think anyone will get it completely, because I’m not sure Crowley got it himself, Some in the dark, and some in the light.