29 Aug Patrick Everitt
Discarding the Humbug of the Supernatural: Aleister Crowley’s rejection of supernatural explanations for occult phenomena
For nearly fifty years, Aleister Crowley wrote about religion, mysticism, and magic. His works discuss many typical ‘occult’ phenomena, including: summoning demons, invoking deities, exploring visionary realms, and communicating with intelligences possessing greater-than-human knowledge and power.
Crowley maintained that, under the right circumstances, magical phenomena can take place; however, according to him, they were not supernatural events. Crowley rejected the idea that magic miraculously disrupts the normal course of nature because conceiving of magic in this way places it beyond the purview of scientific inquiry. For Crowley, magic (or ‘Magick’) was itself a science, and magical phenomena are facts of nature. Therefore, they should be as empirically verifiable and as capable of demonstrative proof as any other natural phenomena. In the absence of satisfactory proof, Crowley argued that faith in their occurrence was ‘repugnant to common sense’, and inevitably led to charlatanism and spurious claims to authority.
To satisfy common sense, Crowley endeavoured to bring occult phenomena within the explanatory scope of the natural sciences and developed his own personal brand of experimental occultism: ‘Scientific Illuminism’. Its motto, ‘The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion’, succinctly encapsulates its principal objective of marrying scientific methodologies to religious and magical practices. This talk will outline Crowley’s naturalistic understanding of magical phenomena to show just how radically the man who proudly called himself the Great Beast 666 rejected ‘the humbug of the supernatural’.
Patrick Everitt is an independent researcher of western esotericism. He completed the Master’s in western esotericism at the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy in the University of Amsterdam. His thesis explored the role of peyote in the life and work of Aleister Crowley. He is working on an extensive, in-depth study of Crowley’s magical philosophy and religious thought. He also researches entheogenic esotericism and the psychedelic philosophies of Robert Anton Wilson, Terence McKenna, and Timothy Leary. He has presented his academic work on esotericism and psychedelics at numerous conferences and events, including the Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Research, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, Breaking Convention, Beyond Psychedelics, Altered Conference, and the O.Z.O.R.A. Festival.