Review: Aleister Crowley and Thelemic Magick by Mogg Morgan

For over the past 35 years, Mogg Morgan and Mandrake of Oxford Press have been at the forefront of exploring, practicing and communicating about the more dynamic and creative dimensions of occult practice in the broad tradition connected with the legacy of Aleister Crowley.

Whether you love or loathe the Great Beast 666, if you are a practicing magician in the 21st Century you cannot but be shaped by the seismic impact of his legacy. His poetry, radical exploration of personal boundaries and occult endeavour have been critical in shaping both contemporary occultism and the Neo-Pagan revival and yet it’s sometimes difficult to find a starting point in appreciating the vast canon of work that he and the Thelemic traditions have produced. Thankfully this new collection of essays by Mogg and others has provided us with an excellent map with which we can get our bearings.

This collection is made up predominantly of essays written by Mogg over the past 30 years but also contains the writings of others Mandrake authors and summaries of presentations given at the infamous Thelemic Symposiums that were convened in Oxford. Mogg is open about his own journey into the broader Thelemic tradition and his own experience of the tension between those more organised magical orders (the Masonic impulse) and the more freeform experimentation (the Rosicrucian impulse) that can take place either in less formal sodalities or individual practice.

His own work within the Typhonian Order, the Oxford Golden Dawn Society and AMOOKOS mean that this anthology leans strongly (and for me helpfully) toward those less solar-phallic forms of Thelema that so richly inform the Typhonian branch of Thelema and its offspring such as Ma’at Magick and Chaos Magick.

The collection begins with a lively excerpt from Snoo Wilson’s I, Crowley and an introductory overview by Mogg (“Hell of a Guru”) that consider Crowley’s on-going allure and ways of working with the broader Thelemic current. Given how verbose and theoretical much writing on Thelema can be, this book provides some highly practical guidance on how to start working with the tradition and what establishing a daily practice might look like. Whether it’s the use of the magical diary, working with the body or using pathworking, Mogg provides a ready guide and his advice is helpful in avoiding early pitfalls.

Given the Typhonian focus of this collection, Morgan provides us with some detailed reflections on his own initiatory work with the Egyptian God Set/Seth (“Typhonian Magick” and “Cult of the Hidden God”). Refreshingly his work with the Neter Set provides a crucial key for accessing an expression of Thelema that is both Queer friendly and also seeks to engage with the feminism of Babalon in a way that moves beyond a superficial sexual fantasy. As the included presentation by MC Medusa makes clear:

“It seems to me that the stereotyped female experience of magick as an expression of sexuality, devotion and passivity (i.e. the ability to surrender) is as limiting to men as it is to women, sexual preference aside.” Pg.71

Personally I deeply enjoyed the reflections on the ethics of Thelema especially in the context of the “double current” approach that seeks to balance the aeons of both Horus and Ma’at. Morgan helpfully argues that the impulse of Ma’at (as manifest in the works of Achad, Nema and others) helps counterbalance the more libertarian individualism of “Do What Thou Will” with a more collective compassion that allows for our magic to fully engage with concepts of care and society.

Mogg in Action

The latter quarter of the book contains a varied smorgasbord of presentations given at the numerous Thelemic Symposiums during the early period (1983-1996) that they occurred, and while the pieces chosen may seem somewhat random and haphazard, for me they provide a helpful overview of the diversity of approaches and themes that can be gathered under the broad umbrella of contemporary Thelemic magick. Themes such as working with the Holy Guardian Angel and Enochian are addressed, and I particularly enjoyed Michael Stayley’s reflection on “The Mysteries of Lam” which explored that potential links between extra-terrestrial intelligence and working with the higher self. These were great conferences for those lucky enough to attend (I went to two of them) and the Thelemic disco/after party has become a thing of legend!

As someone cautiously inspired by Crowley, I found the broad and creative approach of this work extremely helpful in relation to my own magical practice. While there are many aspects of Crowley’s life and character that trouble me, like the Beatles on the cover of Sargent Pepper’s I also want to acknowledge the way in which the he sought to be himself and shake off the dusty restriction of the Victorian era. While I may not consider myself a card-carrying Thelemite, I can agree with Mogg’s observation:

“Those who choose to follow this magical path aim to decondition themselves, to develop independence of spirit and ultimately become their very own self.” Pg.17

I strongly recommend this excellent book to anyone seek to pursue such a goal.

Steve Dee

Coming up next…

Pagan Phoenix SW Spring Conference – The first digital version of the very popular Pagan conference with Prof. Ronald Hutton, Levannah Morgan, Ethan Pennell & Damh the Bard 04 Mar, 10:30 – 17:00 UK time in Zoomland.

The Magic of Place: Psychogeography – Lecture. Julian Vayne’s online lecture explores methods to connect to the land under one’s feet, whether it be in the city or the countryside. 09 Feb, 19:00 – 20:30 UK time in Zoomland.

Psychic Powers & Psychedelics. Join us for an amazing journey from ancient entheogenic cultures to the parapsychological experiments of the 1960s through to the current Psychedelic Renaissance, and beyond. Expect a delicious blend of personal stories, historical context and some of the latest findings in psychedelic science.Thursday 2nd March 2023: 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm UK time in Zoomland.

Sigil Magic. Sigils are an approachable way to use intention to transform our reality. This 3-part livestream workshop with occultist Julian Vayne teaches the history and development of sigil magic. It also presents many practical approaches to this craft. We’ll explore ancient sigil-style methods such as the use of bind runes and Solomonic symbols as well as hi-tech ways to cast sigil spells using the internet and even your phone. Tuesday 9th May 2023 : 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm UK time in Zoomland.

Breathwork Ceremony. Breath is the mantra that begins the day we are born and continues until the day we let go of our form. In this in-person ceremony at the College, occultist Julian Vayne will facilitate a powerful journey through breathwork into a profound altered state. The method of changing awareness through this breathwork is controllable, profound and can lead to deep healing and new insights. Friday 12th May 2023: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm in person at The College of Psychic Studies, London.

Sound Magic. From rune singing and the use of drumming to create altered states, to mantra, healing sound frequencies, glossolalia and ritual poetry, this experiential workshop will guide you into sound’s transformative power. Saturday 13th May 2023: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm in person at The College of Psychic Studies, London

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