This is an important and balanced biography of Aleister Crowley, a man who had inspired (and arguably conspired with) controversy most of his life and since. I suspect that this is the most rigorously researched book on the market concerning the life and times of the controversial `Great Beast' and Dr Kaczynski's book offers a significant insight and historical context to a complex life and personality that was dedicated to an intense pursuit of an objective that Crowley and his followers believed was an expression of his true will...and there's an interesting point to ponder!? The often quoted "Do what thou wilt" is of course clarified in the book within the context of Crowley's philosophy however there is little analysis of the broader ideologies and magickal systems of OTO or Thelema from a pragmatic perspective. Perhaps one needs to look elsewhere for that as the book itself stands up on the basis that it deals impartially and in detail with the man and his more worldly activities, creative output, relationships and influences without too much regard to the wilder myths and stories. As such it offers a credible and fascinating insight into one of recent history's most interesting and controversial characters whatever one thinks of Crowley's polemic or poetry. Regards his poetry, this was clearly a major part of his life and he was prolifically creative in this regard but in the early part of the 21st century it's perhaps hard to appreciate the finer aspects of lyricism, rhyme and imagery (as a relative Phillistine at any rate!) - `Perdurabo' probably gets the balance right here too with examples selected to illustrate and exemplify (can't make head nor tail of it on the whole but had to laugh at the hidden rude words - you can probably stop reading now...).
Crowley claimed Thelema as a `method of science -the aim of religion' - many years have passed and as Kaczynski admits this concept has not been broadly embraced by society and so the debate continues. The book however might have benefited from a level of analysis from a modern psychology perspective after all there was clear influence of Freud, Jung and Adler (he even claims to have treated some of the latter's patients) one has to ask whether there have been any advances or psychological insights available into any of the phenomena Crowley was dealing with and in relation to the concept of the numinous.
Crowley, although clearly capable of incisive and crystal clear prose often favoured a pseudo-archaic almost biblical language, possibly to satisfy his poetic sensibilities but this resulted in severely limiting the accessibility of many of his texts (no pain no gain I hear you say- though I did once read Liber Legis and became much more LiberAl as a result). Either way with such a creative outpouring as detailed in the book it would be impossible for Kaczynski to provide a comprehensive interpretation even assuming it's available, and so it would have been helpful if a steer could have been given in the text to where such additional analysis could be accessed. Then again with some things such as Crowley's IT solution one's got to ask where the idea came from! Not sure I want the recipe.
And so on reflection, a thumbs up and fist of `pentalphas' awarded and whilst there are some flaws, perhaps not enough to lose a whole star. Hats off to (Dr) Kaczynski.
Unlike other biographies about Crowley, `Perdurabo' presents us with an all too human genius who devotes his life to the pursuit of magick and to living within the concepts of the Aeon of Horus. He is not some `devil-worshipping' black magician, destroying souls in his wake, dragged into the slime of sensationalism as so much of the media and `third-rate biographies' like to portray him; and neither is he raised to God-like status, so much so that we cannot relate to the man. Kaczynski, with his extensive research, paints a portrait of Perdurabo as a vast figure of a man, bent upon one course throughout his fascinating life, that of magick! This book, like no other, really captures the Beast and helps us to `get under the skin' of the subject, and to see with his eyes and feel with his heart, the emotional torments and physical pains; the poetic passion that love inaugurated and the financial difficulties and publication problems that drove the Mage onwards, into new frontiers of thought and spiritual progression. We are astounded at his adventures; exhilarated by his mystical wanderings; amazed at his poetic vision and warmed by the great lights of his time whom he encountered (Pollitt, Eckenstein, Fuller, Neuburg etc.) and fell under his persuasive spell, only to break away and reveal Crowley's human failings - Prophet of the New Age; poet and mountaineer, he was one hell of a man, and `Perdurabo' by Richard Kaczynski comes closest to bringing the Beast to life, from his birth to his death - the journey is delightful, remarkable and sad! I cannot recommend this book highly enough for I consider it to be the definitive biography of Crowley which far surpasses Lawrence Sutin's `Do what thou wilt' and Martin Booth's `A Magick Life', which are both equally worthy! Highly recommended!
If you only want to read one book about crowley this is the one to read, it not only concentrates on the more famous aspects like mountaineering and magick that most biographers concentrate on but it also focuses on his difficulties publishing his poetry and books, and he had a lot more of those than you might think, all the many lovers he took, or as the writer puts it the many women he performed a sex magick ritual with, (a phrase that is perhaps used more often than it should have been)and all the day tot day details of what his life was really like. It avoids going into details of the most controversial aspects of his life and this is perhaps it's only major flaw as it while you learn all about the person that was Aleister Crowley and after reading it you fully understand why people were talking about him then and now it fails to show why he was described as the most wicked man in the world, it implies that these were all falsehoods created by disgruntled ex members of his organisations and the press looking for something to fill their pages and you do at times feel yourself wondering how everybody could have been wrong. It goes slightly too far in proving he was one of the greatest magicians to show anything interesting about him, he comes across too often as someone who claimed to be a genius if only someone would read his works, and it fails to deal with some of the more interesting stories about his magickal practice, the story of how he apparently slit a goats throat while it was having sex with his girlfriend is glossed over in less than a paragraph for example while pages are spent detailing his contacts with printers and how much it cost to print his books. The other major problem is a tendency to give brief biographies of everyone Crowley ever met. In conclusions this is one of the most in depth biographies on Aleister Crowley you are ever likely to read and ideal if you want to get an idea of what he was really like warts and all, but if you are just looking for sensationalism look elsewhere for a hack job.
An excellent text well researched. The writing is factual and avoids judgement or moral observation on a man known to inspire polarised opinions. while it may lack "flair" some people might seek, I thought this was a good read and well worth it's share of time and weight in paper.
The hardback edition is glossy, solid with excellent paper.