An exploration of Crowley’s relationship with the United States
• Details Crowley’s travels, passions, literary and artistic endeavors, sex magick, and psychedelic experimentation
• Investigates Crowley’s undercover intelligence adventures that actively promoted U.S. involvement in WWI
• Includes an abundance of previously unpublished letters and diaries
Occultist, magician, poet, painter, and writer Aleister Crowley’s three sojourns in America sealed both his notoriety and his lasting influence. Using previously unpublished diaries and letters, Tobias Churton traces Crowley’s extensive travels through America and his quest to implant a new magical and spiritual consciousness in the United States, while working to undermine Germany’s propaganda campaign to keep the United States out of World War I.
Masterfully recreating turn-of-the-century America in all its startling strangeness, Churton explains how Crowley arrived in New York amid dramatic circumstances in 1900. After other travels, in 1914 Crowley returned to the U.S. and stayed for five years: turbulent years that changed him, the world, and the face of occultism forever. Diving deeply into Crowley’s 5-year stay, we meet artists, writers, spies, and government agents as we uncover Crowley’s complex work for British and U.S. intelligence agencies. Exploring Crowley’s involvement with the birth of the Greenwich Village radical art scene, we discover his relations with writers Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser and artists John Butler Yeats, Leon Engers Kennedy, and Robert Winthrop Chanler while living and lecturing on now-vanished “Genius Row.” We experience his love affairs and share Crowley’s hard times in New Orleans and his return to health, magical dynamism, and the most colorful sex life in America. We examine his controversial political stunts, his role in the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania, his making of the “Elixir of Life” in 1915, his psychedelic experimentation, his prolific literary achievements, and his run-in with Detroit Freemasonry. We also witness Crowley’s influence on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and rocket fuel genius Jack Parsons. We learn why J. Edgar Hoover wouldn’t let Crowley back in the country and why the FBI raided Crowley’s organization in LA.
Offering a 20th-century history of the occult movement in the United States, Churton shows how Crowley’s U.S. visits laid the groundwork for the establishment of his syncretic “religion” of Thelema and the now flourishing OTO, as well as how Crowley’s final wish was to have his ashes scattered in the Hamptons.
About the Author
Tobias Churton is Britain’s leading scholar of Western Esotericism, a world authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism. He is a filmmaker and the founding editor of the magazine Freemasonry Today. An Honorary Fellow of Exeter University, where he is faculty lecturer in Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, he holds a master’s degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford, and created the award-winning documentary series and accompanying book The Gnostics, as well as several other films on Christian doctrine, mysticism, and magical folklore. The author of many books, including Gnostic Philosophy, The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians, and Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin, he lives in England.
“Aleister Crowley in America focuses sharply and drills down into Crowley’s formative U.S. period, burgeoning with rich and surprising depth beyond what is possible in a life-spanning biography. This story deserves a book of its own, and Tobias Churton demonstrates here that the Beast is indeed in the details.”
— Richard Kaczynski, author of Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley
“Churton has sifted through a mass of material--from long-neglected documents to the latest researches of contemporary Crowley scholars--to put together this comprehensive and intriguing study of the years the Beast spent in America. He brings fresh eyes to old controversies, such as the true nature of Crowley’s political activities during the First World War, and presents a work that anyone interested in the history of Crowley and his circle will read with enthusiasm.”
— Keith Richmond, co-owner of Weiser Antiquarian Books and author of Progradior and the Beast
“This beautifully produced and richly documented history tracks and clarifies Crowley’s myriad experiences in America. Tobias Churton admirably sorts out fact from fantasy and shines an illuminating light on a misunderstood facet of Crowley’s career.”
— Mitch Horowitz, PEN Award-winning author of Occult America
“Way beyond the standard Crowley hagiographies, Churton’s books always put the Great Beast in cultural context. This fascinating mustread is no exception; it’s an invaluable, well-researched, and highly entertaining insight into the great magician’s life, thoughts, and scandals during his American adventures.”
— Carl Abrahamsson, author of Occulture and Reasonances
“Magician Tobias Churton has successfully cast a spell, transforming his 750-page comprehensive scholarly tome into a gripping and obsessive page turner, leaving one wishing for more. Replete with new and exciting details and interpretations of Crowley’s time in the New World--and of the multiple denizens of his exciting and unique social circles--the book includes previously unpublished manuscripts, letters, and photographs. Churton furnishes the reader with a sensitive and intimate portrait that brings Crowley to life--as if we are invited to a convivial conversation or private dinner with the Magus himself. Truly an outstanding, enjoyable, and invaluable book!”
— James Wasserman, author of Templar Heresy: A Story of Gnostic Illumination
“Crowley had a great hunger for almost everything he ever thought of or saw. He was economical with the truth, with his own money, and with his loyalties, but--and it is a big but--the scope and scale of America thrilled him. The vitality of the big cities, the newness and esoteric searching of the West Coast made him delirious with a big, greedy joy. He loved the States for nearly thirty years, as it gave him a dedicated group of very clever people, like Jack Parsons, who practiced what he preached. Tobias Churton has uncovered fresh material on Crowley in biographically fresh territory and has once again written a very fine book.”
— Geraldine Beskin and Bali Beskin, owners of the Atlantis Bookshop, London