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April 5, 2011 10:50 PM   Subscribe

Kenneth Grant, who has died aged 86, was probably the last living link to the voluptuary, occultist and megalomaniac Aleister Crowley; after Crowley’s death Grant co-edited and published many of the self-styled mystic’s writings, but he also became involved in a protracted wrangle over his own claim to be Crowley’s heir. Via.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (34 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am perpetually amused by how much Crowley got away by claiming to be a mystic--that kind of pyschopathy amuses me to no end, and Grant as errand boy to the great satan is just too delicious.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:37 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got my hands on The Book of Lies when I was about 15 and I have been reading various OTO and Crowley texts ever since when sufficiently board/high.

I still can't get what the big deal is. Why anyone would be his lackey is beyond me. But, thanks for editing his novels.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:46 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why anyone would be his lackey is beyond me.

Sex? Drugs? Mystical meaning? He said interesting things and obviously had a shitload of charisma?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:53 PM on April 5, 2011


Sex? Drugs? Mystical meaning? He said interesting things and obviously had a shitload of charisma?

You know, I just realized my priorities have been entirely misplaced. Who wants some hash and a BJ?
posted by munchingzombie at 12:04 AM on April 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am perpetually amused by how much Crowley got away by claiming to be a mystic--that kind of pyschopathy amuses me to no end, and Grant as errand boy to the great satan is just too delicious.


Crowley was a rich celebrity in the nobility with a number of mountaineering awards in his belt and a wonderful official portrait. The mystic occult stuff was icing. It all ends up with you posing as the "Chinese god Of Joy" with pigtails and taped back eyes. but what does the nobility have but an obligation to entertain?

Grant as errand boy to the great satan is just too delicious.

I can't help tot think of the poor clerk enraptured of Crowley who ended up lost in North Africa with him, dressed as a genii. Paint and all.
posted by The Whelk at 12:07 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And Crowley is interesting in that he was the last of the Old Style English Aristocracy: Weird, Demanding, Public, and Unstoppable. Demanding Fortum And Mason send you whiskey? That's Regency stuff right there.
posted by The Whelk at 12:11 AM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Riot at Fortnum and Masons this year, reminded me of the weird culture that the store has in the life of English minor aristocracy, the Mitfords were big fans. I wonder if you can still get an account there.
posted by PinkMoose at 12:30 AM on April 6, 2011


Who wants some hash and a BJ?

You'll pardon me if I don't accept from someone named munchingzombie.
posted by mykescipark at 12:52 AM on April 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Crazy. Just finished reading all four issues of Alan Moore's Neonomicon where the venerable Grant gets a nice nod. Immeadiately wondered if the old chap was still whistling. Then along strolls this FPP...

. So long old chum and thanks for all the fun.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:19 AM on April 6, 2011


And Crowley is interesting in that he was the last of the Old Style English Aristocracy

You're mistaken on two counts, I think. The Crowley family money was from shares, not land, and there are plenty of actual aristocrats still around, plenty of whom are as old and mad as one could hope for.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:19 AM on April 6, 2011


The OTO always sounded like a goth version of a frat to me. Is this like Flounder dieing?
posted by KingEdRa at 1:52 AM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just like the word voluptuary. I think I might list that as my occupation when filling out my taxes this year.

Tax breaks for hedonists?
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:09 AM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Blavatsky coat tales.
posted by clavdivs at 2:09 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, the Great Beast was not a member of the English aristocracy; the family were Quakers who made their money from beer. (According to Richard Kaczynski's biography of Crowley: 'By offering a glass of ale and a sandwich for four pence, the Crowleys not only competed with the four-penny ale offered by brewers like Mann of Mile End Road, but in doing so they also essentially invented the pub lunch.') But he was a crashing snob, as Julian Maclaren-Ross describes in Memoirs of the Forties:

Joan [Graham-Murray] had gone to stay in the country, taking with her a copy of my short-story collection 'The Nine Men of Soho'. Crowley, also there as a guest, had idly glanced through this, and saying he'd like to see what the young men were up to nowadays, asked Joan's permission to borrow it. When he returned the book she saw that the margins had been scribbled over with rather petulant old-world comments, such as: 'Yes yes, all very well, but why doesn't he tell us what the girl's background is?! Who are her people?!!' and so on.

He also asked Joan if she knew me, she said yes, and Crowley then said testily: 'Well next time you see him, tell him to be more precise about his characters' origins. He seems to ignore all the traditional social values that make up the fabric of our civilization', which, since I'd always understood that Crowley's mission as Worst Man in the World was to tear this fabric down, amused me quite a lot. But then maybe all diabolists are conservatives at heart, or where would be the fun?

posted by verstegan at 2:50 AM on April 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


He got a passing mention in Alan's Moore's recent Neonomicon

Apparently he was well into Lovecraft and added some his stuff to the Great Beast's. Though this not just confined to Lovecraft, he was particularly taken with the chanting of meaningless gibberish ('Barbarous Names') to supposedly open up the mind and for other magical purposes Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:03 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lovecraft. Crowley. L. Ron Hubbard.

What is the fascination with these mid-century charlatans?
posted by spitbull at 4:14 AM on April 6, 2011


Grant wrote some silly, silly things, but I kind of cherish him as this last link to the heyday of British Occultism -- insular, snobby, prone to internal dissension, and rich with poisonous attacks on each other garlanded with esoterica and polite veneer. It must have been a wonderful and horrible world to live in.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:34 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Count me among those who don't understand Crowley's appeal. I know I shouldn't underestimate human gullibility, but how did anyone ever take this guy seriously? In trying so hard to seem spooky and mystical and mad and depraved, he just comes across as kind of a dork—like some Edwardian goth kid*, walking around pretending to be Lord Asmodeus Golgotha, Prynce of the Vampyres. Perhaps it was a more naïve age.

* As a dude who has, in the past, worn green hair dye and black lipstick/nail paint/fishnets, and enjoyed no small number of Wax Trax! releases, I am allowed to make fun of goths.
posted by ixohoxi at 5:59 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can you imagine if Thelema had its Brigham Young or its David Miscavige? Someone competent to carry on and grow the movement? Admittedly Thelema lacked the follower base and spiritual consistency of those more successful new religions, but it makes up for it in pure sexy hedonism.
posted by Nelson at 7:11 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was also considering a post about Kenneth Grant...this discussion follows the lead of the linked article in focusing on Crowley, but Grant's books and are a distinct branch from the same tree that Crowley inhabited (forgive the tortured metaphor - I shouldn't do this in the morning).

Grant worked out an occult system involving sex magic, the unconscious, and 'twilight language' that was the forbearer of the chaos magic that arose in the '90s, for good and ill. I don't share the fascination with, or even the appreciation of Crowley that the article suggests, but the Grant's ideas around occultism and the practice of ceremonial magic still inform my way of seeing and dealing with the world.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 7:23 AM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Voluptuary" sounds like a place where one keeps one's voluptuous people.

There's a great story about Grant and Crowley which I only half-remember, in which Crowley wrote an angry letter to Grant's parents telling them that Grant had taken a box of chocolate biscuits when he left Crowley's tutelage, and that this was not the sign of a well-brought-up child. This being, I guess, when rationing was still a going concern...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:26 AM on April 6, 2011



Lovecraft. Crowley. L. Ron Hubbard.

What is the fascination with these mid-century charlatans?


On what basis do you call Lovecraft a "charlatan"?
posted by endless_forms at 7:47 AM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Convincing old school friends to bugger a wooly ruminant under the influence of charm and opiates isn't really my scene old boy, I like my crazy made-up magic at least a few centuries old.
posted by longbaugh at 8:02 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lovecraft. Crowley. L. Ron Hubbard.

What is the fascination with these mid-century charlatans?


One of these is not like the others! Can you guess which one?
posted by byanyothername at 8:08 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kenneth Grant, who has died aged 86, was probably the last living link to the voluptuary, occultist and megalomaniac Aleister Crowley

The last living link? Has Barbara Bush died?
posted by hippybear at 8:14 AM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


More seriously, I spent a few years curiously peeking at (mostly British) occultism in my teen years. It was an odd duck of a subject and lots of seemingly intelligent people I admired were enraptured by it, so there must be something there!

For the most part, I found it a bit deliberately confusing and substanceless, but I never went beyond the role of the plucky investigator; I read the books that got namedropped and I talked to people who were a little more into it all and I scratched my head, trying to suss everything out, and I enjoyed scratching my head, trying to suss everything out.

What I took away from it was that reframing our lives, our ideals and our hopes for the future in a ritualistic or artistic context can be a powerful transformative experience, doubly so if we do this in the company of people we connect with, who may share our values and personal mythologies.

I'm fairly sure I missed the point entirely, but I like my version better than all the hand waving and chicanery. Still, as fluffy as the topic is and as much as some aspects have always bothered me, I do have a strange affection for these weirdos.

So, yes:

. ?
posted by byanyothername at 8:29 AM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've always found Grant's claim to leadership of the O.T.O. to be a little dubious, and his writings seemed a bit heavy on the handwaviness and chicanery that byanyothername alludes to. I mean, I've never really seen much point in poking around in the Tunnels of Set, but my theoretical knowledge of arcane topics far outweighs my practical experience, so what do I know?

Still, I really enjoyed The Magical Revival, so I'm sad to learn of his passing. And in true occult tradition, I expect to see no less than a half-dozen splinter groups and leaders claiming to represent the "true" lineage of the Typhonian O.T.O.
posted by malocchio at 9:23 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]






Ugh, Crowley. I discovered his work when I was a young girl -- the loathsome pornography (by accident) and the casual misogyny pretty much sorted him out for me. He was the Charlie Sheen of his time, I suppose.

I wonder if Lovecraft became aware of Crowley's interest before he died. For all his faults, Lovecraft had a firm grasp on reality, and no fondness for bunk.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:34 PM on April 6, 2011


What is the fascination with these mid-century charlatans?

If no one was fascinated with them, they wouldn't be notable enough for you to even call them charlatans.
posted by The World Famous at 4:49 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's the charisma and the larger than life mythos they built up around themselves. They also represent the transformation of geeks and goths into something like gods.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:54 PM on April 6, 2011


It's the charisma...

And, like, the interesting (in the case of Grant), and surprisingly well written, insightful and logical (in the case of Crowley), books they wrote.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:18 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not that all of Crowley's writing meets that standard...
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:26 PM on April 6, 2011


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