Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley – Richard Kaczynski (Revised and Expanded Edition)
North Atlantic Books – 2010
Aleister Crowley has appeared on this blog a fair few times at this stage. I’ve read books about him and several of his own works, and I thought I had a pretty good idea of what he was about. Then I read Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley by
This really is an excellent book. I haven’t read any of the other biographies of Crowley, and the only reason I would want to at this stage would be to compare them with this one. I don’t imagine any of them include much information that isn’t in here. Although Perdurabo is very long and very extensive, it never really gets boring.
This isn’t just a story of Crowley’s life. It also serves as a reference work on his works. It gives the details behind all of the Beast’s most important books, and I am quite sure that I will be referring to my copy of Perdurabo whenever I’m reading a book by Crowley in the future. I would have been able to make more sense out of the books by Crowley that I’ve read if I had read this beforehand.
I’ve read about Crowley’s notorious Abbey of Thelema many times. I knew that this was a house in Italy where he lived with some of his disciples for a while. I guess I had never given the idea much thought before, but without directly stating it, this book makes it pretty clear that Crowley was a cult-leader at this stage of his life. He manipulated his followers to get them to do whatever he wanted.
Some of the most interesting stuff that I learned wasn’t about what Crowley did at the Abbey; it was the things that he didn’t do there. Apparently Crowley never forced one of his followers to drink a cup of cat’s blood. (He probably only sacrificed the cat because it was noisy.) And, while this book confirms that Crowley once tried to get a goat to fuck his girlfriend, it suggests that he did not cut the goat’s throat to let it bleed all over her as it was cumming.
Being a manipulative dickhead is one thing, but Crowley’s behaviour at the Abbey was shameful in a far nastier way than what’s mentioned above. In April, 1920, Crowley’s partner and their three month old daughter moved to the Abbey. The baby was dead by October despite her parent’s performances of sex-magick rituals to save her. The child had been ill before arriving, but Crowley was content to let her live in a dirty building with her father constantly strung out on heroin.
And this wasn’t Crowley’s first failed attempt at fatherhood. In 1906, Crowley and his family were in China. He sent his pregnant wife and their two year old daughter back to England via India while he went towards Canada. When he got back to England, he discovered that his little girl had died. I don’t care how independent and capable his wife was, he shouldn’t have left her in that situation. Kill goats, spread German propaganda, cheat idiots of their money and dignity, but take care of your little girl, you horrible piece of shit.
I’m quite sure that Crowley was upset by the deaths of his children, but it seems very likely that both babies would have lived longer if he had taken better care of them. It’s difficult for me to have any respect for a man who acted this way. He may have been “Supreme Rex and Sovereign Grand Master General of Ireland, Iona, and all the Britons”, but he was also a deadbeat junky and a shitty, incompetent father.
I knew that Aleister Crowley had written poems, but I wasn’t aware of how many. For a portion or maybe several portions of his life, he seemed to think of himself as a poet more than anything else. I’ve never really been a poetry kind of guy myself, but within minutes of reading an excerpt from Aleister’s collection titled Snowdrops from a Curate’s Garden, I had bought a copy. You can find the text online, but I needed a hard copy for my bookshelf. I’ll review this one here soon.
In the spirit of the comprehensiveness of Perdurabo, I had intended on going through the index of books I’ve reviewed and compiling a list of notes about the ones which feature Crowley. I quickly realised that that would require an awful lot of work, and a Richard Kaczynski I am not. Here’s some of the more Crowley-centric posts I’ve written:
Moonchild, The Magician and To the Devil – A Daughter
This was my first post on Crowley. It’s a comparison of his different appearances in works of fiction. Knowing what I know now, I’d probably change a few things if I was going to rewrite this, but this post actually contains some fairly impressive research.
The Book of the Law and The Book of Lies
I wasn’t hugely impressed by Crowley’s masterpiece. I might see it differently now given what I have learned about Crowley’s life, but it’ll be a long time before I can bring myself to read it again.
Crowley’s Saint Patrick’s Day Poem and Crowley’s Essay on James Joyce
These are writings by Crowley that were hard to find online. Both posts include brief discussions on Crowley’s interesting attitude toward Ireland.
The Aleister Crowley Scrapbook
This post includes an interview with Sandy Robertson, the book’s author. I was flicking through this book the other day, and found another reference to Inpenetrable by Joel Harris. (The third reference to this book that I’ve ever seen.)
There’s a lot more on Crowley on this blog. If you do a site-wide search for his name, you’ll see what I mean.