I don't normally leave reviews, but felt I someone needed to provide an alternative perspective to the previous review.
Firstly, any book that deals with Crowley's multiple and varied personalities and philosophies is going to appear confusing or off-putting to many because it will typically contain:
- many metaphysical contradictions and paradoxes
- unprovable and unbelievable stories
- an almost endless number of Crowley's poetic attempts at expressing the inexpressible
as well as many other distressing, interesting, disgusting, refreshing, exhilarating, despicable and stimulating ideas, because Crowley was, if nothing else, a thought-provoking enigma. There are no answers, only questions; no facts, only opinions; no objectivity, only subjectivity.
As a result, for any writer to discuss Crowley in a manner befitting of the subject, he or she must perform the greatest sadistic act a writer can: they must force the reader to think.
And this means presenting as many different perspectives as possible, while treating none as the absolute truth.
Regardie gives a very broad, unbiased view (or certainly as relatively unbiased a view as possible, considering human bias is an inescapable and necessary evil of expression) by reserving judgment in favor of analyzing Crowley's actions, writings and influences from various perspectives.
He will often describe a single event in Crowley's own words, as well as in another biographer's words, and offers his own psychological analysis based on his own personal experiences with Mysticism, psychology and Crowley himself.
This is the true brilliance of Regardie's book, as it cannot all be interpreted as true. The contradictions and subjective biases of the various sources prevent one from accepting any one perspective as true and forces upon the reader a broader, multi-model, relativistic, mystical view.
And so, as with most mystical literature, the response of most readers, in general, will be characterised in one of a few ways:
- Those familiar with mystical writing, occult literature, etc. and who are comfortable with the process of allowing themselves to see as much as they are able to see (i.e. putting aside as many cultural and ego-based biases and prejudices as possible) will find this book, at the very least, interesting. They will be able to suspend their judgment of the book and Crowley himself long enough to receive some of his fascinating intuitions.
- Those not familiar with such mystical writing styles, or only beginning to familiarise themselves with the occult, may find that they are unable to properly process the information in this book using their traditional methods of reading and understanding. However, as often is the result of this, they may find that they are forcibly jolted out of their conditioned thinking and, for example, rise from a state of perceiving contradictions in the text to one of perceiving reconcilable paradoxes.
- Those not familiar with the writing and, at the time of reading, not able to "let" the literature perturb their mind, will react as most people have reacted to Crowley. They will see it in black and white; good and evil; true and false. They will see Crowley the sex-fiend, drug-addict, liar, devil and beast. Because that's the persona he created especially to irritate those unable to understand him. Transcending this judgment will help in understanding his teachings. The man was often a pure bastard, consciously and willingly, and made no attempt to hide this "fact". He seemed to be saying that he, in stark contrast to most people (because we all act selfishly and are prone to acts of cruelty at least some of the time) refused to be a hypocrite and hide his "negative" attributes and actions. How appropriate his behaviour was is debatable, but in order to understand him better, we must attempt to understand how he viewed his own public actions.
As for providing a balance to the previous review, I found this book interesting and relatively unbiased. Regardie refers to previous Crowley biographies, as mentioned in the previous review, but simply to offer examples of the kind of uninformed writing that tends to spring up around Crowley and his life.
He is far from "gushing" in his praise for Crowley! The stories about his friendship with Crowley illustrate, if nothing else, that Regardie is more interested in Crowley's teachings than the man himself. He found out firsthand that this mystical and intuitive genius had a highly cruel and despicable streak, and yet Regardie is still able to praise his teachings and writings. Why? Because he has seen through the evil beast persona that masks divinely inspired ideas. The challenge for the reader is to do the same.
This is a fascinating and fantastic book for anyone who is interested in Crowley. I first heard of it through Robert Anton Wilson's writing's, so a fan of RAW will also probably love this. In fact, the best way for me to describe what you find in this book is to borrow a phrase from Wilson:
"What the Thinker thinks,
The Prover proves."