Essay: Existentialist Thought

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[. . .] This system is a religious philosophy which was developed throughout Crowley's writings. I will analyze this religious philosophy using the same categories as I examined in the previous case of Nietzsche. Using the concepts of individualism and individual thought, in different or hostile environments of existence, and a general inexplicable attitude of explaining the greater phenomenon of life will help highlight in contrast Crowley to Nietzsche.

Aleister Crowley's Thelema is an engrossing accumulation of ethics, morals and artistic freedom. "Do what thou wilt" summarizes Crowley's main philosophical tenant. Individual freedom and the power of individual choice to select one's own destiny in life is essential in understanding Thelema. In Liber AL vel Legis, or his Book of Law, effectively introduced this mantra and placed the essence of life within the Will . The book is cryptic and mystical in nature. A common theme centers around accumulating individual power through the use of understanding and channeling energies inherent within the Will. According to Crowley everything revolved around doing the bidding of the Will. Understanding this concept is most important in understanding Crowley. [7: Crowley, Aleister. Book of Law. Viewed on April 15, 2011. Web.]

Aleister Crowley's prolific literary catalog includes much poetry and artistic examples to both complement and help describe his philosophical views and practical teachings. Once again we see a philosopher/artist occupy both sides of this aesthetic as they serve one another to reinforce and further explain their own individual usefulness. In his Eight Lectures on Yoga, Crowley continued to resonate in an existentialist spirit by explaining his position on the practices of different yoga forms. As he explains the union of man and his creator, he simultaneously portrays in existentialist thought those ideas inherent in an indifferent world. To reach enlightenment he proclaimed in this fashion one must "destroy the sense of separateness which is the root of desire, is the made by the concentration of every element of one's eating, and annihilating it by intimate combustion with the universe itself." This intense visualization of potential seems to serve a common theme of natural indifference or hostility to the unenlightened human form, another descriptive characteristic of existentialism. [8: Crowley, Aleister. Eight Lectures on Yoga. The Equinox, 3 1919, pp 1-61. Print]

To understand Crowley and his relationship to existential thought and his relative interpretation of its concepts it is ultimately desirable to read his essay Vindication of Nietzsche. Here we have an explicit interpretation of existentialist thought related through this short illuminating literary work. The piece is an antiwar essay which justified Nietzsche's stance towards institutional violence and mass control of individual desire. In this defense, Crowley quoted his Book of the Law to highlight and defend Nietzsche's positions on love and individual self-awareness. This is done to simplify terms: "I quoted in preference to Nietzsche, not only because Nietzsche has penetrated from Prussia to Pimlico, and is quoted in street then as an astute guard, but also because it is simpler than Nietzsche, because there is no possibility of misinterpreting the doctrine because it is not German or Slavonic but universal the battle cry of what may yet become a new and terrible theocracy." [9: Crowley, Aleister The Vindication of Nietsche. Kokopeli Publishing 1996. Web.]

In this particular example Crowley's critique of Nietzsche's stance as being slightly indistinguishable from another and more dangerous terminology. This appears to be an accelerated and more intense interpretation of the individual's right to spread its will. Authority and the human tendency to bow down to its illusionary power needs to be eradicated and promoted as essential to individual expression according to Crowley. The time lapse between Crowley and Nietzsche lifetimes and artistic zeniths contributed no doubt to this slight criticism of Frederick Nietzsche's ultimate philosophy. During this time it appears as though, through the use of technology and other societal means, Crowley could express a more prominent and poignant demonstrative philosophical religion, where Nietzsche was trapped in a more dualistic paradigm of him vs. institutional Christianity. This probably therefore vindicates Nietzsche by expounding and artistically reveling in his individual freedom, despite the social taboos and diversions away from man's law and regulations.

Experiencing life is often like experiencing a fine piece of art. Crowley, in my opinion, demonstrated that this was a centerpiece of his philosophy and I personally recognize it as a category of existential thought as well. The voluminous amount of writings Aleister Crowley left behind, on an immense number of different subjects outpaced Nietzsche and other existentialist writer's contributions towards the subject. This massive artistic expression seen in Crowley's poems, drawings and inherent within the creation of his individual religion demonstrated the power of the Will by experiencing it and not reading about it or hearing about it from someone else. Existential thought requires something that goes beyond the written word or the spoken word, Crowley believed it would resonate deep with inside and travel outwards.

The inexplicable nature of existential thought resonated most loudly with Crowley perhaps in the history of all philosophical thinkers. His association with evil and satanic behavior is applicable, yet excusable and worthwhile according to his Thelemic style of religious interpretation. Cryptologists and mystic thinkers have much work to do yet in understanding various possibilities of what many of Crowley's writings hold or could hold. Replacing Nietzsche's Christianity foil with the entire world's institutions places in more probably as a courageous and dramatic influence if not overzealous and proud. Excepting the paradox and inexplicable nature in all things, is useful in understanding Crowley's mantra of "do what thou wilt." If this behavior is to be interpreted as being practical, it seems the premise that life itself is relative in nature can never be wholly explained by any overcoming purpose or meaning.

Crowley used humor and indulgence within the senses to help attain certain levels of enlightenment while keeping aligned with his ultimate philosophy. The quest for this spiritual attainment is highlighted in his Diary of a Drug Fiend. Using his own experience as a reference to a couple's trip through a cycle of addiction and adventure, truthfully accepts the consequences of behavior but does not expound on the guilt associated with societies interpretations of such experimentation. The story continually focused on the inner powers of the couple, disguised as a magic man, which ultimately delivered them closer to understanding their true essence. Crowley used their experiences to help explain how negative and seemingly evil aspects of life should be used positively and in helping individual growth and experience . [10: Crowley, Aleister. The Diary of A Drug Fiend. Adoni Publishing 2002. Web.]

It also appears that Crowley conflated magic and science as similar approaches to human existence. Sexual energies used in a magical or mystical format, explained by Crowley, may be interpreted as both practical and spiritual ways of achieving soulful attainment in this realm of existence. The true will is contained in orgasmic energy according to Crowley and its ultimate revelation is essential in individual and personal growth towards its ultimate destination. Combining certain subjects as sexual mysticism with Egyptian mythological stories distinguishes Crowley from other existentialists that choose to dwell in other subjects that are not as blatantly obscene or truthful to commoners.

Summarizing both of these philosophical thinkers we see common threads in a distinguishable relationship. Frederick Nietzsche's contributions to existentialist thought are encapsulated within those artistic expressions of Aleister Crowley. Three categorical characteristics of existential thought including quest for individual liberty and freedoms, a background environment of hostility or indifference, and an inexplicable nature of purpose and meaning in life are all present within their philosophical approaches.

Do what thou wilt, and the Will to power are both derivative of a cosmic energy inherent within all living matter and provide context and opportunity for human experience. This willpower is essential to the experience and drives the experience, God is dead, but not the God that lies within each and every individual. Spirituality does not escape these two riders, only dogmatic and narrow minded approaches to mass understanding of these concepts are held in opposition to these thinkers. Understanding both of these thinkers in terms of the will and its multi-purpose application of pragmatic and practical experience well bring about new and hopefully more relevant uses to existential thought and philosophy in general.


"Existentialism." The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed.2007. Web

2 Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by Thomas Common 1891. Web

3 Neitzsche.

4 Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Idea. New York, Dolphin Books, 1961. Print.

5 Nietzsche, Friedrich. Ecce Homo. The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche vol 8, 1911. Web.

6 Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Antichrist. Project Gutenberg. Web Crowley, Aleister. Book of Law. Viewed on April 15, 2011. Web.

Crowley, Aleister. Eight Lectures on Yoga. The Equinox, 3 1919, pp 1-61. Print

9 Crowley, Aleister The Vindication of Nietsche. Kokopeli Publishing 1996. Web.

10 Crowley,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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