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A Magick Life: A Biography of Aleister Crowley

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A MAGICK LIFE is a detailed and extensively researched biography, a uniquely unbiased study of one of the thentieth century's most charismatic, misinterpreted and controversial figures, a brilliant polymath whose considerable intellect and talent were crushed by his self-destructiveness.


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A MAGICK LIFE is a detailed and extensively researched biography, a uniquely unbiased study of one of the thentieth century's most charismatic, misinterpreted and controversial figures, a brilliant polymath whose considerable intellect and talent were crushed by his self-destructiveness.

30 review for A Magick Life: A Biography of Aleister Crowley

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Years ago, in college, an older friend gave me a copy of Crowley's immense autobiography. I tried reading it then and once more recently without success. Frankly, I didn't take Crowley seriously and the reading of Colin Wilson's brief biographies of him had convinced me that he was a morally disreputable faker. Since then, however, another friend had gotten into reading him, even attending rites derived from his practices. I decided to give Crowley a second chance. Booth's biography was a good ch Years ago, in college, an older friend gave me a copy of Crowley's immense autobiography. I tried reading it then and once more recently without success. Frankly, I didn't take Crowley seriously and the reading of Colin Wilson's brief biographies of him had convinced me that he was a morally disreputable faker. Since then, however, another friend had gotten into reading him, even attending rites derived from his practices. I decided to give Crowley a second chance. Booth's biography was a good choice. He avoids adding to the lurid sensationalism surrounding the character while reporting such as there was during his lifetime. He makes no judgment about Crowley's 'magick', but does note the importance of drug usage (opiates, cocaine, cannabis, peyote, ether) to his practice thereby allowing for all sorts of flights of imagination. He also gives great emphasis to Crowley's more reputable achievements as a writer, a chess player, a mountaineer, a conversationalist, without defending him from the many credible charges of moral turpitude. It is, in a word, a 'sympathetic' biography. Booth's work is not perfect. There are some errors of fact, such as in his treatment of the place of the occult in Nazism (yes, Himmler and Hess were into it. Hitler was not). There isn't much about the milieu in which Crowley lived. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the period of his life (1875-1947) and with such figures of the period as Wilde, Yeats and Chesterton. That was no problem for my aged self, but even I would have liked a lot more about the world of occultism in which he dwelled during the period and before. Still, although long and narrowly focused, it's a readable study which many may find entertaining.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pikiora

    Not a bad book, I think the author was very fair in their assessment of Crowley, it would have been easy to see him as either all good or all bad. It seems from his actions he was neither. Just awfully awfully self centered, arrogant, egotistical. A bit depressing at times it is not the easiest book to read and it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that everybody he touched went crazy and committed suicide, it is more likely that these people are drawn to our attention, and Crowley attracte Not a bad book, I think the author was very fair in their assessment of Crowley, it would have been easy to see him as either all good or all bad. It seems from his actions he was neither. Just awfully awfully self centered, arrogant, egotistical. A bit depressing at times it is not the easiest book to read and it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that everybody he touched went crazy and committed suicide, it is more likely that these people are drawn to our attention, and Crowley attracted people who were slightly...unstable. The author does say this. As to his life's work? Well I have got a book that follows on from this, in the hope of learning and understanding more, on this front I am undecided but curious. :)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Lopez

    When reviewing a biography there’s always a temptation to review its subject. I’ll get that out of the way by saying that I think of Aleister Crowley, the most famous occultist of the last century, a complex and obnoxious man with too much money. One source Booth cites, whose name I cannot remember, described him as “genius gone wrong”. Well, if you’re running around referring to yourself as The Great Beast 666, I’ll warrant that something has gone wrong with your life. Despite all that, I have When reviewing a biography there’s always a temptation to review its subject. I’ll get that out of the way by saying that I think of Aleister Crowley, the most famous occultist of the last century, a complex and obnoxious man with too much money. One source Booth cites, whose name I cannot remember, described him as “genius gone wrong”. Well, if you’re running around referring to yourself as The Great Beast 666, I’ll warrant that something has gone wrong with your life. Despite all that, I have a soft spot for occultists because nobody expects me to take them seriously. My main difficulty in reading biographies is the lack of dialogue. All we ever get are summaries of complex events drawn from primary sources like interviews. Somehow this makes reading more of an endurance feat than it normally is. Booth’s loquacious and sometimes tangential prose makes the biography readable, but even then I was averaging fifty pages a day. There was particularly chilling moment that I know plan to rip off for a story. Crowley grew up in a very Christian family, and as his mother lost her wits after her husband died she called her son a beast. Familiar with Revelations, he internalised that title which in turn set the course of his life. Such a cruel thing to call a child. Booth’s thorough research means that this biography is vital reading for anyone interested in Crowley’s life, either for reasons of personal gratification or if they need to know about the man for some project. As biography is a genre I take little pleasure in, I cannot recommend this book to be read for fun.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Juan

    Es muy curioso que, teniendo varios amigos realmente fanáticos de Crowley, yo nunca me hubiera preocupado por enterarme de su vida más allá de las escasas referencias populares que todo el mundo conoce; por suerte, alguien que bien me quiere se acordó de mí y me regaló esta biografía con la que he aprendido cosas como que, por ejemplo, fue un pionero del montañismo bien entendido (aunque llevaba fatal lo de trabajar en equipo). Quitando algún dato suelto con el que no termino de estar de acuerdo Es muy curioso que, teniendo varios amigos realmente fanáticos de Crowley, yo nunca me hubiera preocupado por enterarme de su vida más allá de las escasas referencias populares que todo el mundo conoce; por suerte, alguien que bien me quiere se acordó de mí y me regaló esta biografía con la que he aprendido cosas como que, por ejemplo, fue un pionero del montañismo bien entendido (aunque llevaba fatal lo de trabajar en equipo). Quitando algún dato suelto con el que no termino de estar de acuerdo (el autor cita mal un disco de Iron Maiden que ni siquiera considero que referencie a Crowley aunque diga que sí), la obra está bastante bien escrita y ordenada, y concede una visión mundana de este supuesto mago que nos desvela que se creía realmente sus supuestas enseñanzas aunque la mayor parte del tiempo parecieran ser alucinaciones a causa de las drogas. Lo que es más importante: aprendes sobre su entorno de infancia y juventud, cómo eso le afectó mental y socialmente, y cómo desarrolló todo su supuesto anticristianismo a posteriori sobre esta base que tan duramente le golpeó en sus momentos más débiles. Al final, todos somos humanos. No he leído el resto de biografías de Crowley que, en general, parecen abundar más en su naturaleza "mágica" que en la mundana, que desmitifica considerablemente esta figura pop en la que unos y otros le hemos convertido. Si fue algo más que eso, solo él lo sabe ya (aunque muchos creen saberlo todavía).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    A nicely researched biography of the so-called wickedest man in the world. Crowley grew up in a very religious household. Being a rambunctious child, his devout mother started calling him "the beast". He quickly decided that he was The Beast, as in 666 from the Book of Revelations. As a young man he was a world class mountaineer and chess player. And of course there is what he is known for, the occult. Oh and he was really very funny. Here's a quote of when he was roaming around Tunisia with his A nicely researched biography of the so-called wickedest man in the world. Crowley grew up in a very religious household. Being a rambunctious child, his devout mother started calling him "the beast". He quickly decided that he was The Beast, as in 666 from the Book of Revelations. As a young man he was a world class mountaineer and chess player. And of course there is what he is known for, the occult. Oh and he was really very funny. Here's a quote of when he was roaming around Tunisia with his head shaved with the exception of a tuft of hair in the center of his forehead, shaped like a horn, dressed in magical robes with a follower who Crowley also shaved so it looked like he had devil horns (all at the tail end of the Victorian era)... "The more eccentric and horrible Neuberg {his acolyte} appeared, the more insanely grotesquely he behaved, the more he inspired the inhabitants with respect for the Magician who had mastered so fantastic and fearful a genie." On this same trip he stumbled into a barfight and broke it up by drawing magical symbols in the air and reciting the Koran. And then they went out on the town to, "a wicked place, where I profoundly regret to be obliged to confess, my comrade displayed unequivocal symptoms of bawdiness. My duty to his poor mother and uncles, as well as my own moral sense, compelled me to repress this terrible lust for carnal copulation with words severe indeed-but not unjust. I stayed, myself, with an Arab wench." Seriously funny stuff. I do need to read more of his actual writing. But continuing on, in later life he was recruited by Ian Fleming (the guy who wrote the 007 books) to practice black magic (or as Crowley spelled it 'magick', the added k being his specific brand of sex and drug based occult practices) on the Nazis, and was later the inspiration for the first Bond villain. He also had links to L. Ron Hubbard who was an early follower. Of course, Crowley saw Hubbard for the fraud he later proved to be. Anyways. He lived quite a life as maybe the first hippie (60 years early) and it's a fine biography. "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cobertizo

    "Pasaron por Granada. Crowley se sintió ligado de inmediato a la Alhambra, le resultaba familiar y concluyó en seguida que se había alojado allí en alguna vida anterior. Imbuido por estos pensamientos y tras visitar el Sacromonte, logró una cita con una gitana, con quien experimentó la espontánea e irresistible andanada de amor que solo se conjuga cuando la belleza de la forma humana y la belleza del resto de la naturaleza entran en armonía automáticamente. Esta activad y la magia sexual resulta "Pasaron por Granada. Crowley se sintió ligado de inmediato a la Alhambra, le resultaba familiar y concluyó en seguida que se había alojado allí en alguna vida anterior. Imbuido por estos pensamientos y tras visitar el Sacromonte, logró una cita con una gitana, con quien experimentó la espontánea e irresistible andanada de amor que solo se conjuga cuando la belleza de la forma humana y la belleza del resto de la naturaleza entran en armonía automáticamente. Esta activad y la magia sexual resultante inspiró un poema, La gitana, que él mismo consideraba como su mejor obra lírica: Your hair was full of roses in the dewfall as we danced, The sorceress enchanting and the paladin entranced, In the starlight as we wove us in a web of silk and steel Immemorial as the marble in the halls of Boabdil, In the pleasance of the roses with the fountains and the yews Where the snowy Sierra soothed us with the breezes and the dews! In the starlight as we trembled from a laugh to a caress And the god came warm upon us in our pagan allegresse. Was the Baile de la Bona too seductive? Did you feel Through the silence and the softness all the tension and the steel? For your hair was full of roses, and my flesh was full of thorns And the midnight came upon worth a million crazy morns. Ah! my Gipsy, my Gitana, my Saliya! were you fain For the dance to turn to earnest?—O the sunny land of Spain! My Gitana, my Saliya! more delicious than a dove! With your hair aflame with roses and your lips alight with love! Shall I see you, shall I kiss you once again? I wander far From the sunny land of summer to the icy Polar Star. I shall find you , I shall have you! I am coming back again From the filth and fog to seek you in the sunny land of Spain. I shall find you, my my Gitana, my Saliya! as of old With your hair aflame with roses and your body gay with gold. I shall find you, I shall have you, in the summer and the south With our passion in your body and our love upon your mouth With our wonder and our worship be the world aflame anew! My Gitana, my Saliya! I am coming back to you!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Holger Haase

    Utterly fascinating biography of an utterly fascinating character. Having previously stopped reading Crowley's own "autohagiography" midway through as I couldn't handle his vain, pompous prose, it's good to be able to read a more rounded biography of a man often far ahead of his time. Now I think I may even end up finishing Crowley's own book after all.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liam Hooks

    Q

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andres

    As advertised, this biography is reasonably unbiased and does not dwell too long on the magickal aspects of Aleister's life. Certainly, they are mentioned as there is no way of separating the one from the other and still come out with a factual book on the man, but unlike other biographies, the emphasis is more on his actions on this plane. I found it a very refreshing glimpse into that aspect of him, which in other treatments has been glossed over in deference to his occult activities. I did fin As advertised, this biography is reasonably unbiased and does not dwell too long on the magickal aspects of Aleister's life. Certainly, they are mentioned as there is no way of separating the one from the other and still come out with a factual book on the man, but unlike other biographies, the emphasis is more on his actions on this plane. I found it a very refreshing glimpse into that aspect of him, which in other treatments has been glossed over in deference to his occult activities. I did find a few glaring mistakes, but not as many as might be expected. One in particular, regarding Jack Parsons, gets that worthy's place of death 100% wrong. He died in an explosion in his garage, at his house, not at Jet Propulsion Labs. How something so easy to check up on got past everyone and made it into print is disappointing, and mars an otherwise excellent book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Aleister Crowley's life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mariah Strand

    I had always wondered about the mystique that surrounds this Aleister Crowley fellow, well, now I know. This biography is one of the best and most comprehensive I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It manages to dish the dirt on ol' Crowley without being for or against him. He is shown simply for what he was (a complete and total tripper.) He proclaimed himself to be the most evil man in the world and yet through the examination of his life we see that he was merely an extremely intellegent I had always wondered about the mystique that surrounds this Aleister Crowley fellow, well, now I know. This biography is one of the best and most comprehensive I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It manages to dish the dirt on ol' Crowley without being for or against him. He is shown simply for what he was (a complete and total tripper.) He proclaimed himself to be the most evil man in the world and yet through the examination of his life we see that he was merely an extremely intellegent man who had a flair for the dramatic and a keen ability to persuade people to follow him. A true eccentric and a more bizarre character one would be hard pressed to find. This book is non stop entertainment from beginging to end.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robert Lurie

    Hands-down the best biography I've ever read and probably one of my top-ten books, period. With a character like Crowley, there's no shortage of material. Pair that with a gifted, witty, irreverant biographer who bends his sentences like musical phrases and you have "A Magick Life." There's no other book like it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Corvine

    Well researched and unbiased account of Crowley's life. Some years ago I read several other biographies, this seems to be far more detailed and even handed than the previous attempts... some of those authors clearly had an axe to grind one way or another.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Deb Lancaster

    Hilarious

  14. 5 out of 5

    Neil Davies

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gokulsagar

  16. 4 out of 5

    Philip Saenger

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jan Rezac

  18. 5 out of 5

    nzingha queen

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leonard

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wynkyn De

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Trbn

  23. 5 out of 5

    Colin Pate

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  25. 5 out of 5

    Oz

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amber Maykut

  27. 4 out of 5

    Richard

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate St

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sean

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