Crowley and Thelema
In my reply to isomeme under the June 12th "Batteries Not Included" post, I mentioned my disappointment with the opening of Martin Starr's The Hidden God (a book I'd been eagerly anticipating for some time), thanks to what struck me as the chip on its shoulder regarding Crowley himself. For those few who care about such matters, maybe another comment or two would be in order (particularly since intralimina made the mistake of encouraging me ;) ).
One often (nay, constantly, particularly online) hears about Thelemites engaging in blind, slavish, unthinking worship of Crowley -- "hears about," rather than actually sees: I have never met these slavishly devoted Thelemites, nor anyone who would approve of them if they existed. Aleister Crowley had plenty of unlovely qualities, as he was (of course) the first to admit, and I don't think there's much danger of anybody ignoring that fact, any time soon. Nor do I have any objection whatever to historians presenting AC "warts and all" -- it's crucial that they do so, in fact, most especially when they have access to historical materials the rest of us don't (and since I haven't read Starr's book, this isn't intended to rebut him personally: my concerns lie elsewhere).
There is, however (IMO), some danger among his (hmm, fans?, students?, devotees?, let's say) readers of the opposite reaction: an attempt to understand and work his system, while missing the point of many of his own instructions on the subject. In particular, sizable numbers of would-be Thelemites are satisfied to stop with a superficial* (mis)understanding of his teachings, rather than bang their heads against the apparent (but deliberate) contradictions in his writings, until those contradictions resolve into the single, simple, elegant system he actually intended.
I hate not being able to be more specific, here, but I also don't want to mess up anybody's initiatory Good Time...and anyway, much of Thelema's work is done at the unconscious level, and can't be done properly if too much is given away, too soon.** That said, some folks' eagerness to dispense with Crowley, and simply work their unattained version of his system of attainment, world without end, is (IMO) endangering the survival of the underlying system. Not of an organization, any organization -- I mean the initiatory system itself: the pattern of self-examination, personal transformation, and (ultimately) "getting" of the cosmic "joke" which Thelemic Initiation is all about.
I stepped onto the Path in March, 1977 EV -- in a Christian discipline -- and didn't reach its culmination until I came to Thelema, and worked it through to its proper end; in toto, it took me fifteen years to Get The Point, and absolutely nothing has been the same for me since I did. Thelema is a system worth working, and cannot be properly worked without a direct confrontation with, and resolution of, its apparently contradictory parts. These "contradictions" are not accidental, but intentional, and any attempt to paper them over by ascribing them to personal contradictions in Crowley is, IMO, fatal to the initiatory journey he intended.
Crowley's Book of Lies is unusually forthcoming on all this, as are his Libri "Had" and "Nu," his essay "Eleusis," his poem "AHA!"...and, of course, Liber CCXX itself. In this effort, some literary and religious training, and a developed sense of both tragedy and humor, can come in mighty handy. (Or, of course, not. ;) )
Hope some of that helps, anyway. Further, deponent saith not. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
* And specifically superstitious.
** Cf. CCXX I:50.