Aleister Crowley: A Modern Master, by John Moore
Mandrake of Oxford, 97801906958002, 215 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2009
A Modern Master aims to present itself as a cultural examination of Crowley, yet Moore does not seem quite up to the task.
Moore wries that one of his goals in writing this book was “to make excuses for him, defending what has been criticised as a more contemptible side of his character”. This is severely misguided. Crowley was who he was, excuses are rather moot at this point. (Do we excuse Baudelaire? Rimbaud? Berber?) Rather than attempt to shine up the unsavoury bits Moore would have done better to explore them in context and describe how they influenced his work.
Continuing, he writes: Continue reading
Aleister Crowley and the 20th Century Synthesis of Magick: Strange distant gods that are not dead today, by Dave Evans
Hidden Publishing, 9780955523724, 108 pp. (incl. appendices), 108 pp. (incl. appendices)
Aleister Crowley and the 20th Century Synthesis of Magick is based on Dave Evans’ master’s thesis from Exeter University and represents the second, revised edition (the first being an e-book published in 2001).
Evans writes that “Crowley is a particularly attractive person to study, as, apart from the Elizabethan magician John Dee, no leading occultist has left such comprehensive personal diaries and writings. It is this intimate and minutely detailed material that facilitates deep engagement with the subject.” This certainly seems to be the case. Continue reading
The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern, by Alex Owen
University of Chicago Press, 9780226642048, 355 pp. (incl. notes, bibliography and index), 2004
Alex Owen is a social and cultural historian who specializes in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain. Owen defines the “place of enchantment” as spanning “the period between 1880 and 1914, those crucial ‘hinge’ years during which reference to ‘the modern’ and ‘we moderns’ took on a new and urgent meaning.” The Place of Enchantment, Owen’s second book, looks at the social and cultural effects occultism in Britain during this period — a theme not much explored by scholars.
Owen writes that “[a]lthough historians are certainly aware of the new ’spiritual movement,’ it received remarkably little scholarly attention, possibly because the very notion of mysticism and the occult seems to run counter to our conception of modern culture and the modern mindset.” There seems to be a preference for conceiving of the rise in scientific thought as being more progressive, overriding what is interpreted as the superstitions of the past. Owen continues, “[t]here remains among historians little developed sense of what such an interest might represent or involve – and this in spite of the fact that the ‘rising tide’ of new spirituality in the years preceding the Great War is clearly evident and demonstrable.” The Place of Enchantment does a remarkable job of filling this gap in fin de siecle Britain. Continue reading