Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

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MiphamFan
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Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by MiphamFan » Fri Aug 05, 2016 6:40 pm

When I read (auto-)biographies of Buddhist masters I feel awed and impressed, but sometimes I feel that their context e.g. 19th century pre-industrial Tibet, is too remote for me to be anything like them. Even 20th century masters like Dilgo Khyentse and Dezhung Rinpoche lived in a very different context from mine, and it feels almost impossibly distant to ever be like them.

Recently I have been reading Perdurabo, a biography of Aleister Crowley, alongside various texts by him on magic, most of which are available online for free, legally.

I found this biography as well as his writings flawed in many ways from a Buddhist perspective, but quite inspirational nonetheless. He was a very intelligent man, who kept up with the findings of his age and read widely on different traditions as well. He actually had quite a good understanding of the general concepts of Hinayana Buddhism, due to his friend Alan Bennett, who used to be a ceremonial magician before becoming a Theravadin monk. He didn't understand Mahayana Buddhism that well, let alone Vajrayana, but that is also due to the limited resources in his time. He has an interesting prose style, though I don't care for his poetry.

His commentary here on a text by Blavatsky derived from Buddhism but mixed with her own Theosophical ideas is quite interesting.
The Adept may plunge into the work of the world, and undertake his daily duties and pleasures exactly as another man would do, but he is not moved by them as the other man is.
Sometimes what he says is almost like Vajrayana PoV:
We who accept the Law of Thelema, even should we concur in this doctrine theoretically, cannot admit that in practice the plan would work out; our aim is that our Nothing, ideally perfect as it is in itself, should enjoy itself through realizing itself in the fulfillment of all possibilities. All such phenomena or "point-events" are equally "illusion"; Nothing is always Nothing; but the projection of Nothing on this screen of the phenomenal does not only explain, but constitutes, the Universe. It is the only system which reconciles all the contradictions inherent in Thought, and in Experience; for in it "Reality" is "Illusion", "Free-will" is "Destiny", the "Self" is the "Not-Self"; and so for every puzzle of Philosophy.

Not too bad an analogy is an endless piece of string. Like a driving band, you cannot tie a knot in it; all the complexities you can contrive are "Tom Fool" knots, and unravel at the proper touch. Always either Naught or Two! But every new re-arrangement throws further light on the possible tangles, that is, on the Nature of the String itself. It is always "Nothing" when you pull it out; but becomes "Everything" as you play about with it,* since there is no limit to the combinations that you can form from it, save only in your imagination (where the whole thing belongs!) and that grows mightily with Experience. It is accordingly well worth while to fulfill oneself in every conceivable manner.

It is then (you will say) impossible to "do wrong", since all phenomena are equally "Illusion" and the answer is always "Nothing." In theory one can hardly deny this proposition; but in practice—how shall I put it? "The state of Illusion which for convenience I call my present consciousness is such that the course of action A is more natural to me than the course of action B?"

Or: A is a shorter cut to Nothing; A is less likely to create internal conflict.

Will that serve?
Despite his use of Qabalah, he never fell into the trap of realism, like most Qabalists do:
Well, now, before going further into this, I must behave like an utter cad, and disgrace my family tree, and blot my 'scutcheon and my copybook by confusing you about "realism." Excuse: not my muddle; it was made centuries ago by a gang of curséd monks, headed by one Duns Scotus—so-called because he was Irish—or if not by somebody else equally objectionable. They held to the Platonic dogma of archetypes. They maintained that there was an original (divine) idea such as "greenness" or a "pig," and that a green pig, as observed in nature, was just one example of these two ideal essences. They were opposed by the "nominalists," who said, to the contrary, that "greenness" or "a pig" were nothing in themselves; they were mere names (nominalism from Lat. nomen, a name) invented for convenience of grouping. This doctrine is plain commonsense, and I shall waste no time in demolishing the realists.
His training program for his students involved pranayama, meditation, and different ways for them to train their body, speech and mind to discover what he called their True Will.

Anyway I have no intention of following Thelema and doing his exercises; everything he does I think Vajrayana offers as well, and in a much more complete and tested way. But I find him more relatable as a flawed, modern man pursuing his own spiritual path in a modern environment than e.g. tulkus who had a more supportive environment all around them. I mean I think "This guy is a modern guy living in an age of "rationalism", well-read in different fields and he can still muster the effort to do his spiritual practice; I have teachings that IMO go beyond what he knew so I should can put in at least as much effort as he did."

His reputation as a "black" magician is vastly overstated, partly because he himself loved the notoriety and also because cultural Christianity was stronger then. His magic is no more or less objectionable than that of different tirthika tantras.

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Malcolm
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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Malcolm » Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:23 pm

MiphamFan wrote:
His reputation as a "black" magician is vastly overstated, partly because he himself loved the notoriety and also because cultural Christianity was stronger then. His magic is no more or less objectionable than that of different tirthika tantras.
Crowley was awesome.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:58 pm

Why would a Buddhist admire a satanist?
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:15 am

MiphamFan wrote:Anyway I have no intention of following Thelema and doing his exercises
Good.
MiphamFan wrote:... I find him more relatable as a flawed, modern man pursuing his own spiritual path in a modern environment than e.g. tulkus who had a more supportive environment all around them. I mean I think "This guy is a modern guy living in an age of "rationalism", well-read in different fields and he can still muster the effort to do his spiritual practice; I have teachings that IMO go beyond what he knew so I should can put in at least as much effort as he did."
If this motivates you, you may also like to read about Gurdjieff - similar time frame, teaching a 'new' path based on extensive borrowings from an eclectic lot of older traditions, establishing a community for it ... and being, again, a flawed human being.
It could be argued that Krishnamurti was even closer to what a real twentieth-century spiritual master might look like.

:reading: :reading:
Kim

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by MiphamFan » Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:01 am

Wayfarer wrote:Why would a Buddhist admire a satanist?
He was not a Satanist.

And anyway, why not? To a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim, Buddhism is straight from Satan.

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by MiphamFan » Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:09 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
MiphamFan wrote:Anyway I have no intention of following Thelema and doing his exercises
Good.
MiphamFan wrote:... I find him more relatable as a flawed, modern man pursuing his own spiritual path in a modern environment than e.g. tulkus who had a more supportive environment all around them. I mean I think "This guy is a modern guy living in an age of "rationalism", well-read in different fields and he can still muster the effort to do his spiritual practice; I have teachings that IMO go beyond what he knew so I should can put in at least as much effort as he did."
If this motivates you, you may also like to read about Gurdjieff - similar time frame, teaching a 'new' path based on extensive borrowings from an eclectic lot of older traditions, establishing a community for it ... and being, again, a flawed human being.
It could be argued that Krishnamurti was even closer to what a real twentieth-century spiritual master might look like.

:reading: :reading:
Kim
Which Krishnamurti? The one Anne Besant tried to set up as a World Teacher? I found him rather obnoxious in his interview with Trungpa.

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by dzogchungpa » Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:21 am

MiphamFan wrote:Which Krishnamurti? The one Anne Besant tried to set up as a World Teacher? I found him rather obnoxious in his interview with Trungpa.
Well, I guess that settles it. :smile:
There is not only nothingness because there is always, and always can manifest. - Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by MiphamFan » Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:39 am

dzogchungpa wrote:
MiphamFan wrote:Which Krishnamurti? The one Anne Besant tried to set up as a World Teacher? I found him rather obnoxious in his interview with Trungpa.
Well, I guess that settles it. :smile:
I never said that alone settles it but after watching that and briefly reading about him and some of his writinga, I don't find him very interesting. iirc, Trungpa wasn't very impressed by him either.

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:16 am

MiphamFan wrote:Which Krishnamurti? The one Anne Besant tried to set up as a World Teacher? I found him rather obnoxious in his interview with Trungpa.
Yes, that one. And your problem with him is a common response to new religious teachers ("teachers" if you prefer - the reasoning is the same), and it's a direct consequence of the way such things work.
The amount of self-belief required to set oneself up as a leader of a new group, especially one with no basis except "I know this is Truth", is such that competing or dissenting views have to be dismissed as false or (at best) incomplete.
If you buy into their line, they welcome and value you as a follower, and you revere them and treat their slightest utterance as revelation. If you don't, they disregard you as someone 'not ready' for their wisdom or need to vanquish you as an opponent of the Truth, while you see them as someone whose ego is way out of proportion to their achievements or knowledge.

:juggling:
Kim

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by dzogchungpa » Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:29 am

MiphamFan wrote:
dzogchungpa wrote:
MiphamFan wrote:Which Krishnamurti? The one Anne Besant tried to set up as a World Teacher? I found him rather obnoxious in his interview with Trungpa.
Well, I guess that settles it. :smile:
I never said that alone settles it but after watching that and briefly reading about him and some of his writinga, I don't find him very interesting. iirc, Trungpa wasn't very impressed by him either.
OK, you're off the hook.
There is not only nothingness because there is always, and always can manifest. - Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by MiphamFan » Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:32 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
MiphamFan wrote:Which Krishnamurti? The one Anne Besant tried to set up as a World Teacher? I found him rather obnoxious in his interview with Trungpa.
Yes, that one. And your problem with him is a common response to new religious teachers ("teachers" if you prefer - the reasoning is the same), and it's a direct consequence of the way such things work.
The amount of self-belief required to set oneself up as a leader of a new group, especially one with no basis except "I know this is Truth", is such that competing or dissenting views have to be dismissed as false or (at best) incomplete.
If you buy into their line, they welcome and value you as a follower, and you revere them and treat their slightest utterance as revelation. If you don't, they disregard you as someone 'not ready' for their wisdom or need to vanquish you as an opponent of the Truth, while you see them as someone whose ego is way out of proportion to their achievements or knowledge.

:juggling:
Kim
Actually my problem with him is more that he has a lot of talk, but no action, something I find very common among New Agers, Neo-Advaitins, Perennialists etc. In that interview with Trungpa he keeps questioning the point of meditation for example. I don't find it very interesting, it seems like mental masturbation basically, no matter how nicely they phrase it. All these are unfalsifiable, closed axiomatic systems that might be logical in themselves but in the end don't relate to lived experience. "Cheap tawk", as Nassim Taleb likes to say.

Magical systems like the GD, Aurum Solis, Crowley's own A.A. and even the Fourth Way community have praxis to go along with their theory. You can try their training programme and see if it actually gets the results they claim. Whatever vices he had, Crowley actually did stuff, he practised what he preached.

Of course I think Vajrayana is even better on both the theory and practice front.

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:42 am

I watched this documentary on Crowley not too long ago. He seems like some kind of demon...

phpBB [video]

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by MiphamFan » Sat Aug 06, 2016 3:01 am

tomamundsen wrote:I watched this documentary on Crowley not too long ago. He seems like some kind of demon...

phpBB [video]
I browsed through some of this.

Lurid, sensationalist and inaccurate. Crowley took drugs and did sex rituals, yes. But Aghoris and Shaivites in India do the same, why don't we condemn them as "black" magicians too? He never actually killed anyone, not even through cursing, although he often parted acrimoniously with people. The references to human sacrifice in his texts are coded language, much like our own Buddhist tantras have coded language.

The Key of Solomon, the Book of Abramelin and other mediaeval/Renaissance grimoires he learned from don't even involve either sex or drugs but this documentary tries to make them seem very "evil" and "dark". In reality they are similar in many ways to outer tantra; you need to be ritually pure, fast, eat a vegetarian diet, and do a retreat to accomplish them.

I think why people view him negatively is mostly because they don't know anything about the Western magical tradition.

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Sat Aug 06, 2016 3:13 am

MiphamFan wrote: I browsed through some of this.

Lurid, sensationalist and inaccurate. Crowley took drugs and did sex rituals, yes. But Aghoris and Shaivites in India do the same, why don't we condemn them as "black" magicians too? He never actually killed anyone, not even through cursing, although he often parted acrimoniously with people. The references to human sacrifice in his texts are coded language, much like our own Buddhist tantras have coded language.

The Key of Solomon, the Book of Abramelin and other mediaeval/Renaissance grimoires he learned from don't even involve either sex or drugs but this documentary tries to make them seem very "evil" and "dark". In reality they are similar in many ways to outer tantra; you need to be ritually pure, fast, eat a vegetarian diet, and do a retreat to accomplish them.

I think why people view him negatively is mostly because they don't know anything about the Western magical tradition.
I was thinking more about how he treated the women in his life, and some people living with him when he was in exile, not the actual ritual magic stuff. Did you catch those parts toward the end?

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Mr. G » Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:38 pm

No love for Austin Osman Spare here too? :)
  • How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by MiphamFan » Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:59 pm

Mr. G wrote:No love for Austin Osman Spare here too? :)
I was into Spare when I was younger but at this point I think he wasn't that impressive. I like his art, but magic seems to be something he was briefly interested in as a teenager and later on just used to spin a story for Kenneth Grant.

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by BuddhaFollower » Sat Aug 06, 2016 3:15 pm

Crowley and his contemporaries were poor practitioners, because they lacked access to the medieval grimoires we have access to now:


http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-H.-Peterson/e/B001JS86XA/
Just recognize the conceptualizing mind.

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Malcolm » Sat Aug 06, 2016 3:36 pm

Wayfarer wrote:Why would a Buddhist admire a satanist?
He was a very interesting person. Definitely not a saint, but who needs saints? Saints are boring.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Sat Aug 06, 2016 5:22 pm

MiphamFan:
His commentary here on a text by Blavatsky derived from Buddhism but mixed with her own Theosophical ideas is quite interesting.
Interesting perhaps, but his contempt, based on ignorance and his generally prideful mind, for the Mahayana approach of Blavatsky's text reveals self-cherishing as his ruling star. Mahayana texts and teachers were not that obscure in his lifetime. There was DT Suzuki's 1907? work on the Mahayana, plus translations of Mahayana sutras in the SBE series at the end of the 19th c.
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Re: Perdurabo - biography of Aleister Crowley

Post by Gyurme Kundrol » Sat Aug 06, 2016 5:55 pm

Wayfarer wrote:Why would a Buddhist admire a satanist?
Even Satanists have Buddha Nature. Even Crowley spoke a pure Dharma from time to time.

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