Now Reading
Aleister Crowley & William Butler Yeats Get into an Occult Battle, Pitting White Magic Towards Black Magic (1900)

Aleister Crowley & William Butler Yeats Get into an Occult Battle, Pitting White Magic Towards Black Magic (1900)

2023-06-13 19:37:57


Aleister Crowley—English magician and founding father of the faith of Thelema—has been admired as a strong theorist and practitioner of what he known as “Magick,” and reviled as a spoiled, abusive buffoon. Falling someplace between these two camps, we discover the opinion of Crowley’s bitter rival, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who as soon as passionately wrote that the research of magic was “crucial pursuit of my life….. The paranormal life is the middle of all that I do and all that I believe and all that I write.”

Crowley would certainly say the identical, however his magic was of a a lot darker, extra obsessive selection, and his success as a poet insignificant subsequent to Yeats. “Crowley was jealous,” argues the blog Rune Soup, “He was by no means capable of communicate the language of poetic image with the arrogance of a local speaker in the best way Yeats positively may.” In a 1948 Partisan Review essay, literary critic and Yeats biographer Richard Ellmann tells the story in another way, drily reporting on the battle as its members noticed it—as a real warfare between competing types of sensible magic.

Having been ejected from the occult Theosophical society for his magical experiments, writes Jamie James at Lapham’s Quarterly, Yeats joined the Airtight Order of the Golden Daybreak, “an much more unique cult, which claimed direct descent from the airtight custom of the Renaissance and into distant antiquity.” At varied instances, the order included writers Arthur Machen and Bram Stoker, Yeats’ beloved Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, and well-known magicians Arthur Edward Waite and Crowley. (Slightly below, see a web page from Yeats’ Golden Daybreak journal. See several more here.)


“When Crowley confirmed an inclination to make use of his occult powers for evil somewhat than for good,” Ellmann writes, “the adepts of the order, Yeats amongst them, determined to not permit him to be initiated into the inside circle; they feared that he would profane the mysteries and unleash highly effective magic forces towards humanity.” Crowley’s ouster result in a confrontation in 1900 that may make you assume—relying in your body of reference—of the warring magicians on South Park or of Susanna Clark’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, or each. “Crowley refused to just accept their resolution,” writes Ullmann, and after some astral assaults on Yeats,

.… in Highlander’s tartan, with a black Crusader’s cross on his breast… Crowley arrived on the Golden Daybreak temple in London. Making the signal of the pentacle inverted and shouting menaces on the adepts, Crowley climbed the steps. However Yeats and two different white magicians got here resolutely ahead to fulfill him, prepared to guard the holy place at any value. When Crowley got here inside vary the forces of fine struck out with their toes and kicked him downstairs.

This virtually slapstick vanquishing turned often known as “the Battle of Blythe Highway” and has been immortalized in a publication of that very name, with accounts from Crowley, Yeats, and Golden Daybreak adepts William Westcott, Florence Farr and others. However the warfare was not gained, Ellmann notes, and Crowley went searching for converts—or victims—in London, whereas Yeats tried to cease him with “the requisite spells and exorcisms.” One such spell supposedly despatched a vampire that “bit and tore at his flesh” because it lay beside Crowley all night time. Regardless of Yeats’ supernatural interventions, one in all Crowley’s targets, a younger painter named Althea Gyles, was “lastly pressured to present manner completely to his baleful fascination.”


Ellmann’s each humorous and unsettling narrative exhibits us Crowley-as-predator, a characterization the rich Englishman had apparently earned, as “accountable governments excluded him from one nation after one other lest he deliver to bear upon their inhabitants his hostile psychic ray.” [Brenda Maddox at The Guardian gives a slightly different account of the Battle, in which “Yeats, with a bouncer, saw him off the premises, called in the police and ended up (victorious) in court.” ] Yeats and the opposite members’ distaste for Crowley certainly had one thing to do along with his predatory habits. However the rivalry was additionally certainly a poetic one, albeit extraordinarily one-sided.

As Crowley biographer Lawrence Sutin writes, “the earnestness of the younger Crowley couldn’t compensate, in Yeats’ thoughts, for the technical difficulties and rhetorical excesses of his verse.” Yeats’ opinion “infuriated Crowley,” who indulged within the magic of projection, writing “What damage him [Yeats] was the data of his personal incomparable inferiority.” Crowley’s remarks are each “ridiculous,” Sutin feedback, and apply “much more convincingly to Crowley himself.” Nonetheless, Crowley’s “Magick,” continued to make Yeats uneasy, and he could have invoked Crowley in his well-known line concerning the “tough beast” slouching towards Bethlehem in 1919’s “The Second Coming.”

Whereas the magical battle between them may provoke extra laughter than curiosity about their completely different manufacturers of magic, Sutin notes a vital distinction that distinguishes the 2 males: “whereas Crowley positioned himself within the companies of the Antichrist ‘the savage God’ of the brand new cycle, Yeats’s constancy was to ‘the outdated king,’ to ‘that retro gyre.’” The gyre, so central a picture in “The Second Coming,” stands for Yeats’ principle of time and historical past, and it belongs to an outdated mysticism and folklore that for him had been synonymous with poetry.

Crowley seen the occult as a supply of private energy—his revelations crammed books dedicated to explaining the philosophy of Thelema (“Do what thou wilt shall be the entire of the Legislation. Love is the legislation, love underneath will); ” Yeats was actually extra of an “group man… in his occult actions,” writes Maddox, and sought to follow magic as a holistic exercise, totally built-in into his social, political, and aesthetic life. His “public philosophy,” as he known as it, writes James, “propounds an awfully convoluted system that goals to combine the human persona with the cosmos.”

To know Crowley’s magical considering, we are able to in all probability skip his poetry and try as finest we are able to to the decipher his several arcane, technical books full of invented terms and symbols. To perceive Yeats, as a lot as that’s doable, we have to learn his poetry, the purest expression of his mystical system and symbolic thought.

via Metafilter

See Also

Associated Content material:

Aleister Crowley: The Wickedest Man in the World Documents the Life of the Bizarre Occultist, Poet & Mountaineer

Rare 1930s Audio: W.B. Yeats Reads Four of His Poems

W.B. Yeats’ Poem “When You Are Old” Adapted into a Japanese Manga Comic

Josh Jones is a author and musician primarily based in Durham, NC. Observe him at @jdmagness

Source Link

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

2022 Blinking Robots.
WordPress by Doejo

Scroll To Top