Misogyny in Crowley’s writings and the occult

In case you wanted to know exactly why occult circles are so infested/infected with misogyny and have a lot more men in them than women (they tend to scare women off). Some people might say it’s ad hominem to conflate the person’s character with their work instead of compartmentalizing them, but Erich Fromm said (in Escape from Freedom) that one’s personal philosophy, views and ulterior motives do show in their work/writings.

Aleister Crowley, better known as Frater Perdurabo and “the Great Beast” in occult circles, was the founder of Thelema, which in turn influenced Gardner’s Wicca (a branch of the OTO at the time) and LaVeyan Satanism. In Magick Without Tears, he states that women are a-moral. On one occasion, he wrote that a female can participate in intelligence discourse but like a dog on standing on two legs, she can do so only with difficulty. On another, he conceived that the role of women was to spoil the lives of men. An excerpt regarding the German’s execution of Edith Cavell, two months after her arrest, for helping the allies during WWI, in occupied Belgium:

“No; I do not think she was morally responsible. Women with rare exceptions, are not. They are not soul, but sex; they have no morals, only moods. It is useless to punish them, and very difficult to guard against them. You can prevent a man from harming you, as a rule, because you know what he is going to do; you cannot so prevent a woman, because she does not know what she is going to do herself!”

– from The International , January 1916, pgs. 24 & 25

The idea that “woman has no soul” does not jive even considering woman’s role as baby incubator, since it takes two to tango. Castaneda wrote, according to Don Juan Matus, that having children creates a type of “hole” in the etheric body which is a loss of vital energy which must be replaced if not vampirized from other people. And I recall very distinctly reading that Crowley did have children.

Also, Crowley and hence the OTO found the sperm to be complete unto itself with the egg but serving as a nutrition source…hence dispensible. Therefore, women are but mediums and vessels for men. Even his Scarlet Women are but footnotes in his trance dictations. Regarding the soul, he wrote that the “true God” is man.

“…. A woman is just as much of a star as is a man and no longer can she be trampled upon or suffer men’s cruelties towards her. A woman can awaken kundalini as does the man and unite herself with Nuit. In the end, she also attains Hadit. If she has been termed a hollow star, and the man has been termed a star with a center, she would now attain a center to her star, the same as he has.”

– Excerpt from a letter published in “In the Continium 2.6 (1979)” by Soror Meral (Phyliss Seckler) See also Women of the Golden Dawn.

Levi, on her deliberately abandoning him, withdrew his protection from his wife; she lost her beauty and intelligence, and became the prey of an aged and hideous pithecoid. Aleister Crowley’s wife insisted upon doing her own will, as she defined it; this compelled him to stand aside. What happened to Mme. Constant happened to her, although in a more violent and disastrous form.

– Liber ABA, MITP, ch7

In the above I am reminded of Liber AL chII v43. Relevant is also the following:

“Woman appears as a conquered sex: conquered by the myth of man. Woman suffers from the privilege of man who is above her, but she suffers it in the obedience which inspires he who has imposed himself as a subject. The victorious sex says to woman: “Make yourself worthy of me. Absorb, through the knowledge of the Subject, the thought which is completely human and universal. Under my guidance you will reach the dimension of the Subject.” In such a way man not only justifies the control that he exercises over the personality of woman – which must be for the entire good of her, every little bad mistake can be fatal – but he becomes the arbiter of her consciousness, and finally, the reservoir of her inferiority: promising her redemption from her mind, in obedience. In fact, she who obeys does not deserve to be known because obedience is irreconcilable with autonomy and it is autonomy that creates in man the stimulus towards knowledge. Thus man does not know woman, he knows himself, and her only inasmuch as she serves him […]”

—  Carla Lonzi, Significato della autocoscienza nei gruppi femministi (The significance of autocoscienza (loosely translated as consciousness-raising) in feminist groups)

Of course, the outstanding example of all such talismans is the wife. A wife may be defined as an object specially prepared for taking the stamp of one’s creative will. This is an example of a very complicated
magical operation, extending over centuries. But, theoretically, it is just an ordinary case of talismanic magick. It is for this reason that so much trouble has been taken to prevent a wife having contact with the profane; or, at least, to try to prevent her.
Readers of the Bible will remember that Absalom publicly adopted David’s wives and concubines on the roof of the palace, in order to signify that he had succeeded in breaking his father’s magical power.

– Liber ABA, MITP, ch16

Who needs fully willing and pleasurable sex or to consider women having power and wills of their own when you can just promote rape as “sex magick”?

Hi Cammy,
If we consider Babalon as the Earth herself, then of course she takes all into her womb as she gives birth to all.
This is in my view, the key to the nature of the Sacred Whore.

Since she doesn’t get paid, slut might be the most appropriate term. A quote
from Ben Rowe’s Book of Seniors:

“Before this could be done, preparations had to be made. In order for the Earth
to experience the work of the adepts in the manner decreed by Sirius, each
adept had to be fused on one level with her energies, in a marriage of spirits. On a cosmic level, this fusion took place through a process analogous to the sexual process in humans, which leaves a permanent connection between the participants. In effect, and speaking very loosely, the Earth allowed herself to be raped by these adepts, allowed them to take into themselves the essence of her spiritual substance, and to place that substance completely under each adept’s individual control.
“She became the whore of these man-gods, accepting all that they thrust into her,
and giving all that they took from her, without expression of her own will,
completely passively. To allow the adepts this freedom on her, she had to
concentrate her consciousness to the point where her will was completely
divorced from her bodies of manifestation. She concentrated her consciousness in
her equivalent of the womb, her navel chakra, in the mode of receptiveness, and
divorced her consciousness from the rest of her body. (Her life, of course,
continued to regulate the actions of that body without her attention, in the
same way that a human being does not have to consciously think about the
processes of digestion or circulation of blood in order for those processes to
I believe that Babalon as mentioned in the Enochian system is the life processes
mentioned here.

From the commentaries on Liber AL vel Legis ch1v41:

Some of the most passionate and permanent attachments have begun with rape.{WEH NOTE: but see the New Comment on verse 51.}

Blind asses! who pretend that women are naturally chaste! The Easterns know better; all the restrictions of the harem, of public opinion, and so on, are based upon the recognition of the fact that woman is only chaste when there is nobody around. She will snatch the babe from its cradle, or drag the dog from its kennel, to prove the old saying: “Natura abhorret a vacuo. For she is the Image of the Soul of Nature, the Great Mother, the Great Whore.

In the book Liber AL, chI v61 it is written:

” Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices; ye shall wear rich jewels; ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in spendour & pride; but always in the love of me, and so shall ye come to my joy.”

comments about the aforementioned “store of women”:

“We must remember that the Book was dictated in Egypt, within the context of the local group mind playing a roll in its imagery. The theology is Egyptian, the setting is the Sahara, and the ethics are reminiscent of Islam. This is helpful to our understanding of many parts of the Book, but especially of this verse. It is helpful again with the sentence beginning, “Ye shall gather….” It has often been pointed out that this sentence contains the one decisive sexism of the Book. “Women” are clearly lumped, in Islamic style, along with other property. Yet I also note that Nuit is neither encouraging nor discouraging this behavior. She is saying, “Surround yourself with anything you think matters, signs of wealth and pleasure or even pride — regardless of what the yogis might say — but do this always in the love of me.” It is a further statement of the “To me” of v. 51, ten verses earlier. The meaning is clear enough.”

– http://www.aumha.org/arcane/ccxx16.htm

Paul Joseph Rovelli’s response:

“What I don’t like about the comment you’ve sent with this post is that the comment points to a seeming short-sightedness in AL, which would betray the perfect nature of this praeter-human contact that Thelemites purport AL to be. On the one hand, I think it reasonable to argue that Nuit is talking directly to the prophet and giving him specific directions.  And of course, Crowley gathered a “store of women” in the Scarlet Women that he used for his evocative prophecies (Abuldiz, Amalantra, et al).  The spices then, are the Kalas described well, by Kenneth Grant in terms of the differing qualities of female genital secretions for each day of the Moon.

On the other hand, we note first that like some of the ancient Gnostic strains, Thelema is a goddess-oriented religion.  And indeed, the goddess is worshipped in her fertility…so that the gathering and store of women makes a nation strong and rich as their fruit are birthing of children. Despite the modern ‘politically correct’ attitude that women should not be seen differently from men; though they have a biological function that men can’t share in, can really distort even the simplest of ideas.

The “ye” you refer to also says that (and we need to determine this) Crowley or Thelemites should “exceed the nations of the earth.”  And I can say this in terms of all the organizing I’ve done over the years.  If Thelema simply becomes a boys club for the socially maladroit—as it is in more than several Thelemic organizations, then Thelema is just a working class piddle.  But when women are gathered into the fold (along with men), then we find a pinnacle of “splendour & pride” that will bring an opulence greater in luxury than any state dinner.”

– Paul Joseph Rovelli

So here we have the dislike of criticism because it somehow undermines the “sanctity” of Liber AL vel Legis. That’s some dogmatic shit right there.

He also basically just said women are resources, confirming the very thing I was criticizing. They are commodities for men’s use and their purpose is to be status symbols to elevate the standing of men; they have no power in themselves but are vessels for that of men. And apparently my being critical is just as bad as the original implication. I had later gotten a comment from someone else that this verse was anyway “abrogated” by the condemnation of all Abrahamic/desert religions, including Islam, which that verse is alluding to – or at least the aspects of the patriarchal agricultural society which in its greed rendered fertile land into deserts and treated women as property.

If he is following after Crowley in his misogyny and thinking of women as resources, what attitudes about women do other male Thelemites have?

It’s no wonder that there are men with impossible standards for women who claim they are seeking their ‘goddess’ and ‘Scarlet Woman,’ the perfect whore, to use. However, it is just as degrading to put someone on a pedestal and idolize/idealize them; it makes it easier to knock them down, or complain that they are out of reach.

What’s more is that the deliberate silencing of women’s views and editing or understimation of their roles out of written and spoken accounts is encouraged by people like PJ who are against intellectual property, leading to historical revisionism which presents not only biased but inaccurate pictures designed to uphold male supremacy. And of course the bias that leads to so-called ‘scientific’ sexism otherwise known as the pseudo-scientific branch of evolutionary psychology.

Even Wicca is not exempt from this sexism that posits women as status symbols and merely vessels of mediums for male power; as some people know, Crowley influenced Gerald Gardner who went on to create Wicca as a branch of the OTO, and the phrase,”An it harm none, do what ye will” derives from “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

“14.For, as the God Himself kissed Her feet in the five-fold salute, laying His power at the feet of the Goddess because of Her youth and beauty, Her sweetness and kindness, Her wisdom and justice, Her humility and generosity, 15.So He resigned all His power to Her. 16.But the High Priestess should ever mind that the power comes from Him. 17.It is only lent, to be used wisely and justly. 18.And the greatest virtue of a High Priestess be that she recognize that youth is necessary to the representative of the Goddess.”

– HPS and HP from A Witch’s Bible

The OTO:

“Since the early days of the O.T.O., the position of women within the Order has been predominantly a passive one; the most glaring example of that is the role of the Priestess within the Gnostic Mass. Female names of Gnostic saints are stripped from the canon of the exclusively male Pantheon. (Though it is true that some Thelemic Outer Orders have attempted to revise this list to include female names. However, this does not seem to have yet become official or accepted.)

Crowley, insofar as several of his assertions regarding the female gender inform,  lived up to the writing standards of his time. The language factor here is inclusive, as the reference to “man” as the universal being was and still is common and acceptable language usage. But some of Crowley’s own writings certainly are tainted with an inherent misogynistic view of the female gender and the superiority of the male formula over the female. These are also surprisingly representative of the historical and social circumstances under which Crowley was writing, and probably include the Freudian factor, that is, Crowley’s hatred of his own mother.

There are undoubtedly, one the one hand, magical reasons which are beyond my understanding that might have led Crowley to exclude the female element from one O.T.O. Grade (the XI* Degree, of course). There are however, historical antecedents of the O.T.O. which might have influenced Crowley to leave women excluded from grades, or their limited or passive collaboration within certain rituals, simply untouched.  It is known to all that before his death, Crowley urged Germer of the many reforms that needed to take place within the O.T.O.

Ironically, within a social context, since the advent of the New Aeon, that is, within just about one hundred years, women have made unprecedented advances in human society (most glaringly in the West). These first hundred years of the New Aeon have witnessed the “breaking of the chains” that had kept women in slavery.  As said in Liber AL, II, 45, “…I will fill her up with joy: with my force shall she see & strike at the worship of Nu: she shall achieve Hadit.”

Some might question, then, why women have not yet played a significant, primary role within Thelema?  The misogynist might even argue in response to that that women are not ‘evolved” enough to understand Thelema, or that their reproductive apparatus renders them “inferior” due to the reproductive burden of their sexual organs, or due to their lack of a penis. But this simplistic mindset does not explain why some women willingly chose not to reproduce, or chose to “play” the role of the male, either through manifest homosexuality, socially or magically.

Young women who come into contact with Thelema today have to deal with several obstacles, namely: a lack of more specific data and anecdotal female initiatic experiences (including experiences relating to the IX* Grade, its operation, and its perspective from the female operator); the inherent sexism within Crowley’s writings; and, and most importantly, a certain “abuse” of power by certain males within the O.T.O.  This abuse of power, appears to be in absolute contradiction with the tenet, “Every man and every woman is a star” which strikes a cord in the heart of every woman who comes into contact with Thelema. This abuse of power also indicates that the O.T.O is not exempt from the type of abuse that occurs within other mundane organizations. On the contrary, the OTO could provide a fertile ground for “insecure boys” or “sick old men.” These unfit individuals tend to overtly diminish the importance of females members within “their” chapters or lodges, or if their importance is at all acknowledged, it is often through their “objectification,” either through “initiatory” sex rituals, and other such “favors.[2]

It is a hard for a female Thelemite to admit to this, but there is nothing very impressive about the diaries of  some of Crowley’s “Scarlet Women.” I have found, through the diaries that I have read, that they were very shallow, containing mostly accounts of what A.C. did during a certain period of time. At best, they related some attempts at practicing the VII* operation, but nothing is recorded with scientific consistency. Many times I have questioned whether SW’s statuses were given as “honorary” to these women while they were in service of the Order. Nevertheless, there are indeed several female Thelemites who have made a contribution to Thelema. Jane Wolfe is definitely one very important example, a woman who was not “feminine” looking enough to fit within the standards of a Lodge “goddess.” However, there aren’t enough documents circulating that speak of her experience as a female Thelemite that could assist many of us females who are in the Path.

Consequently, there is a pressing need to deconstruct the “myths” that have been created over time about the role of females within the O.T.O., if we are to attract more females into our hordes, especially intelligent ones!  Sadly,  this “myth” has been consistently reinforced by certain unscrupulous male members of the Order who have been given power too fast, without greater scrutiny, and have consequently abused it.”

A Personal Account of Sexual Harassment

See also Spermo-Gnosis

Or Jungian psychology/sexology:

“Male sexuality is essentially outgoing, a pursuit of the object in order to obtain relief from tension and discomfort through physical contact. It produces an urge to activity, a restlessness and drive that can be stilled only by detumescence. In contrast to this, a woman’s sexuality manifests itself as a yearning passivity, a desire to have something carried out upon her; it produces a burden of inertia that is the exact counterpart of man’s instinctive drive.

Woman is therefore burdened with two measures of inertia, the primal sloth of unconsciousness that is the common lot of man and woman, and an additional quota that is the effort of unconscious and unrealized sexuality. Just as Trickster had to struggle with his phallic bundle, so woman has to struggle with her inertia if she is to be freed from identification with her daemon of biological instinct. It is this aspect of feminine psychology that is responsible for the heavy sensuousness of the cowlike woman.”

— Psychic Energy: Its Source and Its Transformation, M. Esther Harding
This is analogous to the depiction of women in art:

“As a class (not necessarily as individuals), we can bear children. From this, according to male-supremacist ideology, all our other attributes and potentialities are derived. On the pedestal, immobile like waxen statues, or in the gutter, failed icons mired in shit, we are exalted or degraded because our biological traits are what they are. Citing genes, genitals, DNA, pattern-releasing smells, biograms, hormones, or whatever is in vogue, male supremacists make their case which is, in essence, that we are biologically too good, too bad, or too different to do anything other than reproduce and serve men sexually and domestically.[…]

In considering male intellectual and scientific argumentation in conjunction with male history, one is forced to conclude that men as a class are moral cretins. The vital question is: are we to accept their world view of a moral polarity that is biologically fixed, genetically or hormonally or genitally (or whatever organ or secretion or molecular particle they scapegoat next) absolute; or does our own historical experience of social deprivation and injustice teach us that to be free in a just world we will have to destroy the power, the dignity, the efficacy of this one idea above all others?

Recently, more and more feminists have been advocating social, spiritual, and mythological models that are female supremacist and/or matriarchal. To me, this advocacy signifies a basic conformity to the tenets of biological determinism that underpin the male social system. Pulled toward an ideology based on the moral and social significance of a distinct female biology because of its emotional and philosophical familiarity, drawn to the spiritual dignity inherent in a “female principle” (essentially as defined by men), of course unable to abandon by will or impulse a lifelong and centuries-old commitment to childbearing as the female creative act, women have increasingly tried to transform the very ideology that has enslaved us into a dynamic, religious, psychologically compelling celebration of female biological potential. This attempted transformation may have survival value—that is, the worship of our procreative capacity as power may temporarily stay the male-supremacist hand that cradles the test tube. But the price we pay is that we become carriers of the disease we must cure. It is no accident that in the ancient matriarchies men were castrated, sacrificially slaughtered, and excluded from public forms of power…”

– Andrea Dworkin, “Biological Superiority: The World’s Most Dangerous Idea.”

Misogyny has been a consistent theme throughout history:

“The historical mist of misogyny provides myriad examples in literature, religion, philosophical thought and other venues. Here are a few:

Aristotle posited that “women were imperfectly human, a failure in the process of conception and this view influenced Roman thought which in turn influenced the early apostolic church.”

Augustine followed Aristotle in his belief that women were morally and mentally inferior to men, their bodies being an obstacle to exercise of reason, and Aquinas followed Augustine and these men depicted women as temptation — easily tempted into evil. Some of the church fathers, including St. Jerome could not agree on whether or not women were completely human.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, woman hating was not a new phenomenon. It was rooted deep in the male psyche. “The hatred was rooted in fear of the life-bearing and menstruating capacities of women, which to men indicated strange and mysterious powers.” In pre-literate societies, these fears were institutionalized in cultural taboos and religious sanctions, which prohibited women from participating in many human activities for a great portion of their lives.

The eighteenth century saw the birth of the concept of literature as business. Literature critiqued and promoted capitalism, and books themselves became highly marketable objects. During this period, misogynous representations of women often served to advance capitalist desires and to redirect feelings of antagonism toward the emerging capitalist order. Laura Mandell, in her book Misogynous Economies, shows how misogyny was put to use in public discourse by a culture confronting modernization and resisting alienation. She argues “passionate feelings about the alienating socioeconomic changes brought on by capitalism were projected onto representations that inspired hatred of women and disgust with the female body.”

In the best selling book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, Leonard Shlain proposes that the invention of writing, particularly alphabetic writing changed the brains of people who learned how to communicate using this culture changing tool. “Great benefits to society followed. However, a precipitous decline in feminine values manifested by women’s status, goddess veneration, nature and representative art occurred in tandem. For example the European witch hunts followed closely on the heels of the printing press.”

It’s impossible to talk about historical misogyny without mentioning the burning, drowning, pressing, hanging, stoning or otherwise killing of women labeled as witches. Basically, any woman who stepped out of the limiting, strictly-regulated, role the patriarchal society assigned her could be accused of witchcraft. Once labeled witch, a woman had no real defense; and, the patriarchy then had the right to protect itself from her “evil.”

Although being labeled a witch, no longer portends violent physical harm. The misogynistic fear, repression and oppression of women are still a powerful presence and the mist engulfs societies around the world.

“It’s a national shame” says a current website, citing recent statistics which show that rape is still all too prevalent in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

Somewhere in the U.S. a woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes.

Approximately 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriends, 35% by acquaintances, and 5% by other relatives.

9 out of 10 rape victims are women.

75% of female victims require medical care after the attack.

One of the most startling aspects of rape is how many go unreported.

One of the most common reasons given by women for not reporting these crimes is the belief that it is a private or personal matter and they fear reprisal from the assailant.

These statistics point out that in many ways male violence against women is acceptable in our society. They also highlight the need to start making the connection between maintaining patriarchy and condoning male violence against women.”

— The Mist of Misogyny, by Rita J. Andrews

Note, the ‘female principle’ also refers to the ‘divine feminine’ in religion and mythology; usually where women are praised while in everyday life scorn is reserved for them.

To continue with what Dworkins said, I don’t believe that oppression is an inherent aspect to womanhood; however, while we make our own mistakes, I also don’t believe women will start mass-killing men anytime soon. In the occult, there is the principle of the Divine Feminine and powers of astral projection attributed to the priestess (female), and divine masculine to the priest (male). This also means usually that the sun’s symbolism is masculine and the moon feminine, with the exception of those deities in which there is a male moon god and a female sun goddess. Sex magick also uses this model and attempts to justify it as ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ with biological sexism and adherence to gender roles, and insists that women orgasm via the g-spot with PIV sex.

Homosexuality, lesbianism, and gender nonconformity are never discussed nowadays as actual working models, because they fuck up the heterosexual status quo of innate sexual orientation and the conflation of sex with gender. We know that biology is not destiny whether it’s reproduction on a material or spiritual level, and that sexual orientation can be a choice – but that doesn’t stop sexists from pushing their agenda as somehow subversive and liberating. These are the same practitioners who praise women when talking spirituality, mythology and religion, but in everyday life reserve their scorn for them and have no problem hurling gendered slurs or attempting to reclaim them as empowering. Additionally, in sex magick and in rituals like the Gnostic Mass the priestess is supposed to represent every woman, and the priest every man. What this translates to in terms of bigotry is that women in the occult must again, conform to such a model of female sexuality; she’s no longer an individual with any rights or unconditional boundaries, but the Other to be conquered, and finally nothing. It’s a Catch-22; you’re a whore if you do, and a whore if you don’t.

Relevant: Racism, gender bias, and other forms of bigotry in the writings of Aleister Crowley – Aleister Crowley and feminism

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