“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”
The interesting thing about Aleister Crowley is that he really believed this. We don’t consider him a fiction writer (at least not primarily), but he went and did it for a while, because he could do whatever and whenever. So he wrote fiction, but only between 1908 and 1922, that’s merely fifteen years from his prolific and incredibly versatile mind. This was an era when he approached the literary world as a critic and writer, although at first quite reluctantly (“I had an instinctive feeling against prose; I had not appreciated its possibilities,” he wrote, later admitting that“the short story is one of the most delicate and powerful forms of expression”). He wasn’t only a writer, but he still made sure that his legacy includes a large collection of miscellaneous prose, now presented in a prestigious (and affordable) Wordsworth edition, titled The Drug and Other Stories.
In here, we can almost forget about his persona, despite the obvious fact that most of these stories are clearly written by an occultist ceremonial magician – but that’s not the point of this collection. His beliefs don’t interfere with his fiction, at least not in a way that it obscures his effort to present various stories, sometimes quite innocent, naive, humorous, other times obtusely esoteric, sure, and sometimes evocative and uncomfortable. Continue reading “The Short Fiction of Aleister Crowley”