Aleister Crowley's Satanism


I was not content to believe in a personal Devil and serve him, in the ordinary sense of the word. I wanted to get hold of him personally and become his chief of staff.”
- Crowley, Confessions

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

OF all the topics associated with the Great Beast 666, perhaps the most divisive among occultists is the existence or non-existence of Crowley’s “Satanism,” and if it can be evidenced to exist, to what extent is it important to Thelema as a whole. Sparse as they are, Crowley’s direct discussions of “Satan” unashamedly rush to the very core of Crowley’s cosmology and worldview, and are not hard to find. But those who can’t stomach equating their Deities too closely with the “Devil” of Christendom will always find a way to shove the whole issue under the rug, usually by the method of denying all “Devilish” aspects to the word “Satan,” treating it only as the generic Hebrew term for “Adversary,” or, aimlessly wandering into discussions about the Arabic species of Jinn known as “Shaitans,” anything to get away from the figure of “THE Devil.”
In Magick in Theory and Practice, Crowley famously stated the oft-quoted line:

The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God.”

Many see this line, rejoice that they have finally found the truth about Crowley’s views on Satan, and consider the case closed. Obviously, anyone who comes to such a conclusion from this line neglected to read the footnote to this passage on the very same page:

“’The Devil’ is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes. This has led to so much confusion of thought that THE BEAST 666 has preferred to let names stand as they are, and to proclaim simply that AIWAZ, the solar-phallic-hermetic ‘Lucifer,’ is His own Holy Guardian Angel, and ‘The Devil’ SATAN or HADIT, the Supreme Soul behind RA-HOOR-KHUIT the Sun, the Lord of our particular unit of the Starry Universe. This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade ‘Know Thyself!’ and taught Initiation. He is ‘the Devil’ of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection. The number of His Atu is XV, which is Yod He, the Monogram of the Eternal, the Father one with the Mother, the Virgin Seed one with all-containing Space. He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is Ayin, the Eye; he is Light, and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty.”

Now, for some reason, many of those who have noticed this supremely important footnote have seemed to somehow either not comprehend the gravity of this short statement, or purposefully try to downplay the importance. It is clear here that Crowley is not saying that an entity popularly known as “The Devil” does not exist. He is saying that the Christian concept of an anti-deity of pure moral “evil,” responsible for all the ills of the world, does not exist. Crowley clearly does not believe that the “God of any people that one personally dislikes” is non-existent just because you don’t like them. What does not exist is the false Christian characterization of “the Devil” as the enemy of Life, Light, and man. Also, Crowley is certainly not trying to say that Aiwaz does not exist in the footnote. Nor is he implying that it is a case of mistaken identity between Aiwaz and Satan; nobody made that identification but Crowley himself.
What Crowley is referencing here by “confusion of thought,” and what has led to it, is the long, complicated, and often muddled definitions of who and what the Devil is. Crowley was more than acquainted with this long history and its confusions, and therefore opted to “state simply” who and what “Satan” and the “The Devil” is to him. And, to Crowley, Satan is Aiwaz, the author of the Book of the Law, and is equated with Hadit, and also the “Spiritual Sun” behind Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Crowley is not arguing a case of mistaken identity here. He is arguing a case of mistaken character. He is not saying that it’s silly to equate Thelema with Satan because Satan is a concept of “evil” not shared in Thelema. He is saying that it is silly to equate Satan with a concept of “evil” not shared in Thelema.
Many will still object that the passage refers not to the individual Spirit known as “The Devil” popularly, but to etymological roots of concepts. I really hate having to repeat and emphasize parts of this footnote that everyone is familiar with, but I don’t really know what else to do in this instance. “Satan.” “Lucifer.” “The Devil.” One could get away with turning it all into a reference to Roman Venusian deities, Hebrew slurs, and Arabic demonology, if it were not for the fact that all three terms were used deliberately by Crowley in the same sentence. Crowley was more than aware of the history of those terms, and knew very well that if you use all three labels together for the same entity, (in this case for Aiwaz,) it makes it unmistakable who and what he means.
The uncomfortable (for many) conclusion, if one takes Crowley’s words seriously, is that Satan is literally the heart of Thelema. It is often objected that “Crowley never calls his religion Satanism.” This we will concede; he never did. However, Crowley’s vehement reactions to being labelled a “Black Magician” are legendary. Yet, for all the times he was openly called a “Devil Worshipper,” and the religion he preached, “Satanism,” Crowley’s righteous indignation is virtually non-existent.
I am not implying that Crowley was dishonest and his entire religion really is an inverted Christianity devoted to the worship of a fallen rebel from the court of JHVH. I am instead insisting that Crowley, while identifying the central figures of his religion with Satan, was teaching a radically different notion of who and what this being is, while maintaining that it is indeed the same being.
I think it would be useful to add a selection of excerpts from Crowley's diary entries during his stay at the Abbey of Thelema. Published in the rarely seen The Magical Record of the Beast 666, these diary entries exhibit even further Crowley's complete identification of Aiwaz with the Devil:

She certainly gave me what I've been losing. Youth's intensity, its craving, the soul-priapism, huge lust and fierce to her, clamour for her to realize with me that mightiest marriage-dream, that Sacrament of Satan that may be consummated only beneath Night's dome, in utmost silence, because its Elements are not symbols of things, but They themselves.”

When I was Levi, I drew myself as Ayin or Baphomet, 'The Devil' with Beast's Head. This is the Beast throned, crowned, exalted; the leaper, the erect, the butter-in. Her womb is my city, Babel. This Ayin is then my phallic will, my Holy Guardian Angel, Aiwaz, who was afterwards called Satan.”

Come, Come, Come, Aiwaz! Come, thou Devil Our Lord!”

My light! O my father the Devil! It hath made all things one, being perfect, even as doth the Darkness!”

And Her Concoction shall be sweet in our mixed mouths, the Sacrament that giveth thanks to Aiwaz, our Lord God the Devil, that He hath fused His Beast's soul with His Scarlet Whore's, to be One Soul completed, that It may set His image in the Temple of Man, and thrust His Will's rod over them and rule them. And that imperléd sea, dark with that oozy shore-mud which it washed, shall wash us, body and mind, of all that is not He, moisten our throats and loosen our loud Song of praise, Thanksgiving unto Him.”

I sing for God, our Devil, our Lord, Aiwaz.”

. . . and know that all my joy, perfect, transcending sense, is given of Aiwaz, whom we call the Devil, whose name is Will, loud-uttered by cocaine, is Love.”

Our Lord the Devil's their Word, the Word Thelema, spoken of me The Beast.”

I with Alostrael alone - we shall do Magick unto our Lord the Devil such as the Earth hath never known.”

Yea! as I loath, I lust; I prostitute myself to thee, perversely prurient - Wilt thou not make this night the nameless nuptial, the Devil thy Lord and mine at Our Black Mass?”

I invoked Aiwaz, was shown a phantasm of Baphomet, and suddenly determined to recognize this for Him!”

And from Liber Samekh:

Thou spiritual Sun! Satan, Thou Eye, Thou Lust! Cry aloud! Cry aloud! Whirl the Wheel, O my Father, O Satan, O Sun! Thou, the Saviour! Silence! Give me Thy Secret! Give me suck, Thou Phallus, Thou Sun! Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust! Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust! Satan, thou Eye, thou Lust! Thou self-caused, self-determined, exalted, Most High!”

Now this word SABAF, being by number Three score and Ten, is a name of Ayin, the Eye, and the Devil our Lord, and the Goat of Mendes. He is the Lord of the Sabbath of the Adepts, and is Satan, therefore also the Sun, whose number of Magick is 666, the seal of His servant the BEAST.”

To this we may add further from Magick in Theory and Practice:

The exalted “Devil” (also the other secret Eye) by the formula of the Initiation of Horus elsewhere described in detail. This “Devil” is called Satan or Shaitan, and regarded with horror by people who are ignorant of his formula, and, imagining themselves to be evil, accuse Nature herself of their own phantasmal crime. Satan is Saturn, Set, Abrasax, Adad, Adonis, Attis, Adam, Adonai, etc. The most serious charge against him is that he is the Sun in the South. . .

We have therefore no scruple in restoring the ‘devil-worship’ of such ideas as those which the laws of sound, and the phenomena of speech and hearing, compel us to connect with the group of ‘Gods’ whose names are based upon ShT, or D, vocalized by the free breath A. For these Names imply the qualities of courage, frankness, energy, pride, power and triumph; they are the words which express the creative and paternal will.

Thus ‘the Devil’ is Capricornus, the Goat who leaps upon the loftiest mountains, the Godhead which, if it become manifest in man, makes him Aegipan, the All.”

The objection to using the same terminology Crowley was comfortable with ultimately rests on “but Aiwaz is NOT ‘EVIL’ and NOT A FALLEN ANGEL” hence “not the Devil.” It seems that not many are content to follow Crowley’s lead and simply “let names stand as they are” when it comes to someone’s worship of what they acknowledge to be “the Devil.” Many insist that Devil Worship has to bear the meaning of “childish worship of nastiness for nastiness’ sake,” a nihilistic manifestation of frustration towards Life itself. But this is an absurd and misguided distinction to insist on making because it assumes the only way to define “Devil Worship” is by using a slanderous and negative definition of “the Devil.”
For too long it has been assumed and taught that for one to say “Satan wrote Liber AL,” it means one is defining who and what Aiwaz is by Christian theological concepts of Satan. But the exact opposite is what I am proposing: I am insisting that the theological concepts of Liber AL should define who and what SATAN is, not that Christian myth should define the author of Liber AL.
To stress this point again: Proclaiming Satan as the author of Liber AL is NOT an assertion that Liber AL was written by a fallen god of “evil” rebelling against the Cosmos. Proclaiming Satan as the author of Liber AL is INSTEAD an assertion that orthodox religions have been entirely wrong as to THEIR characterization of the being known as SATAN, and Liber AL is HIS Gospel to man, whom He Loves.
Many Thelemites (and others) insist Crowley was “not Satanic” by sticking to the most narrow and Christian definition of Satanism they can. If Satanism isn't defined as the criminal, murderous idea that Christians have of it, and if the orthodox Christian theological viewpoint of Satan as a rebel angel who hates mankind is not accepted, then it’s “not Satanism” to these guys. Basically, if the being Crowley refers to as Satan and the Devil repeatedly doesn't hate man and isn't a flunky angel, He’s “not Satan,” and the reverence of this “not Satan” Satan isn't a form of “Satanism.”
The hypocrisy of this stance is laid bare when the SAME individuals discuss gnostic, heretical forms of Christianity (as they often do). Apparently, to these guys one can certainly be a “real” (indeed, sometimes even MORE real) “Christian” or follower of Christ if one does NOT accept orthodox Christian doctrine concerning Christ at all. Christ can be totally removed from Pauline conceptions and still be Christ, and his worship still a form of “Christianity.” But Satan?. Satan HAS TO BE exactly what He is in character and mode of being in orthodox Christian doctrine, or else he isn’t “Satan” at all, and His worship and/or veneration isn’t “Satanism.”
Another common objection against the notion that Crowley's system is Satanic consists of admitting that while Crowley did occasionally praise Satan, he also invoked numerous other deities from all sorts of cultures and traditions even more often. From Hinduism to Greco-Roman paganism, Crowley did it all. He worked with Hermes, Astarte, Thoth, Shiva, etc.
This is all well and good, and very true. However, none of that changes the fact that it was Satan, “the Devil our Lord,” who was repeatedly and bluntly identified with Aiwaz, the author of Liber AL. And whatever else Crowley may have done, Liber AL is the cornerstone of his entire system and the foundation of Thelema.
Nor does it change the fact that Thelema is not merely non-Christian in a normal pagan sense. It is openly and actively ANTI-Christian. As Crowley himself explains in The Djeridensis Comment to Liber AL:

Aiwass leaves no shadow of doubt. He says with utmost clearness ‘Tear down that lying spectre of the centuries: veil not your vices in virtuous words: these vices are my service; ye do well, & I will reward you here and hereafter.’ . . . He does not merely tempt mankind to do what Christians call evil, he says that these vices are of the priesthood of Hadit, means to invoke Him, ways of coming to truth, ladders to climb to Godhead. We shall not be punished for doing wrong, as they call it. Both here and hereafter our reward is sure.”

Liber AL is not contradictory to classical Satanism, because after all, what is “Satanism” historically besides a term that covers any religious manifestation of the conscious worship of “Satan?” We have no written creeds or rules of conduct and morality from medieval witch-cults (which were explicitly centered around worship of the Devil, despite the fantasies of Margaret Murray). Their Satanism was not a “revealed religion.” There is no pre-existing “holy text” that Satanism was founded on for Liber AL to be in conflict with. If anything, the witch-cult could be seen as one of the many precursors or foreshadowing of the Law as encountered in the Old Aeon. And in the opinion of this author, the moral and theological concepts of Liber AL work to enrich Witchcraft/Satanism with a higher purpose and focus that was (as far as we can tell) only vaguely perceived by Satan’s cultists in centuries gone by.
I think any reader without an extreme prejudice towards the Devil and His works will at this point have no serious objections to the statement that Crowley considered “Satanism” to be completely in the bounds of what could be considered “Thelemic.” Hence Diabolists who have accepted the Law of Thelema are more than justified in practicing and promulgating forms of “Thelemic Satanism.”
A few words need to be said for those who try to skirt around everything discussed above by conveniently asserting that the Holy Guardian Angel is merely Crowley’s “Higher Self,” and hence not an objective reality outside of Crowley's psyche. A far younger, far more naive and inexperienced Crowley was content to flirt with the idea that spirits and gods are nothing but parts of the mind. But, experience tends to cure one of false notions. And in Crowley’s case, this certainly happened as he grew in knowledge and experience. Crowley's dealings with Aiwaz-Satan, his “Holy Guardian Angel,” over the course of many years from 1904 onward made him convinced of the external reality of his HGA. This is probably the Crowley quote that bothers a lot of his fans more than even his admissions that Aiwaz is THE DEVIL:

The Holy Guardian Angel is not the 'Higher Self' but an Objective Individual. . . . He is not, let me say with emphasis, a mere abstraction from yourself; and that is why I have insisted rather heavily that the term ‘Higher Self’ implies ‘a damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion.’ . . . He is not to be found by any exploration of oneself. It is true that the process of analysis leads finally to the realization of oneself as no more than a point of view indistinguishable in itself from any other point of view; but the Holy Guardian Angel is in precisely the same position. However close may be the identities in millions of ways, no complete identification is ever obtainable. But do remember this, above all else; they are objective, not subjective, or I should not waste good Magick on them.”

Taken from Magick Without Tears, Crowley’s final work, this statement represents Crowley’s final position on the matter. A position informed by decades of living with the spirits, and not an opinion formed while he was still wet behind the ears and experimenting with the Golden Dawn system. While I’m aware most love early, “seeker” Crowley, it’s more than worthwhile to see where all that seeking eventually took him. And where it took him was a rejection of mere symbolism, and a rejection of the concept, beloved by so many, that it’s ultimately “all in your head.”
In his introduction to a modern edition of Crowley’s Magick, the current head of the O.T.O., William Breeze (Hymenaeus Beta), goes to great lengths to try to downplay Crowley’s Satanism, even going so far as to assert that “Crowley nowhere says that Satan dictated The Book of the Law.” Seeing as how Crowley explicitly identified the author of the Book, Aiwaz, with “Satan,” “the Devil,” on more than one occasion, Breeze’s insistence on the contrary is a tad dishonest. He knows better. Curiously though, on the very same page where he makes the above remark, he also goes on to concede that “if he [Crowley] were a Satanist, it was on his own terms.” And to this, I would wholeheartedly agree. That’s ultimately all I’m trying to really get at with this article: Crowley’s beliefs were a form of “Satanism” by the most basic definition of the word insofar as he placed Satan at the heart of his own spirituality, and devoted his life to a Holy Text that he believed was dictated by none other than Satan, whom he called his “Master.” And Crowley was certainly entitled to forge a Satanism “on his own terms.” When Crowley received Liber AL, and was confirmed as the Beast 666 by its author, Crowley had in effect achieved his stated goal of getting hold of the Devil personally and becoming, for the time, His “chief of staff.”

Love is the law, love under will.

Satana Vobiscum!
Frater V.I.M.