The Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley by Richard Kaczynski

The Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley
Richard Kaczynski, Ph.D.
Weiser Books, 2009
126 pages

A few years ago, when I was working on exploring different magical paradigms as part of my time as a Chaos magician, I did some basic reading up on Aleister Crowley. I read the Book of the Law, Magick Without Tears, Duquette’s The Magick of Thelema, and made an unsuccessful attempt to get through the Big Blue Brick. I was never a Thelemite, but it was enough to get a basic taste of what the fuss was all about.

Reading The Weiser Concise Guide is sort of like having the Cliff’s Notes version of all that. There’s a very brief, quick biography; a brief, quick introduction to his magical accomplishments; a brief, quick overview of the various magical orders he founded or was a part of; a brief, quick selection of basic rituals; and so forth. Granted, this is a concise guide, one of several this publisher has put out, but there’s so much of Crowley out there that it’s almost impossible to leave an impression in this text of anything more than a car speeding down a highway seeing billboards for various sights, but never pulling off the road.

This made it a sometimes frustrating read, especially as sometimes the transition from topic to topic seemed choppy. I also think that if I hadn’t already read some of his material and otherwise familiarized myself with it that some of what was described might have gone over my head. A basic understanding of occultism and magic will definitely help with parsing this text, though there’s a fair amount, particularly in the biographical portion, that may be accessible to anyone.

Still, the author did an admirable job of trying to distill the essential Crowley into a little over 100 pages. He even managed to add in a good sample of practical material for the “Crowley experience”, as it were. I wouldn’t recommend this as one’s only book on Crowley and related material, but it’s as good a starting point as any, and for someone already familiar with magic and occultism who wants just enough Crowley to know the bare-bones basics to get started with, this is a good choice. Also, do be aware that there are numerous feuds and arguments (to say the very least) among Thelemites and other Crowley fans, and while the author tried to maintain a certain amount of neutrality, there will no doubt be those who can pull political arguments out of the writing of this text. That being said, there is a minimum of actual interpretation of Crowley’s works (though a largely positive view of Crowley himself), and it’s a mostly “just the fact’s ma’am” approach.

Four pawprints out of five.

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