Thelema: An Introduction to the Life, Work & Philosophy of Aleister Crowley (2018)


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Are you left wanting after reading the Wikipedia entry for Aleister Crowley (“The Wickedest Man in the World”) but also daunted by Richard Kaczynski’s 700-page Perdurabo? Colin D. Campbell’s introductory text is the answer. Neither exhaustive nor limpid, Campbell delivers a three-fold primer on Crowley and Thelema within 200 pages: biography, Thelemic philosophy, and Thelemic application. The prose is conversational, opting for passion over pretension even at the expense of an overuse of exclamation marks and a few knee-slappers. There is no complex thesis in the sense of a critical study—if there is a theme that drives the book it is that Thelema is more relevant than ever, with its very foundation built upon individualism sans conflict. Campbell’s subject matter carries with it its own inherent intrigue to which has been attached much fantastic baggage. This text offers a sobering look at a complex and shrouded figure.

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The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound (2017)

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As with studies of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, I am willing to follow any brave soul into the thickets of the famously difficult Cantos or the brackish writer behind them. The compounded (excuse the pun) difficulty with Pound, however, versus the perverted German nationalism posthumously ascribed to Hegel, is twofold: “…Pound’s difficulty lies not only in the challenge of how to read his poetry, but also in how to reconcile it with his life’s contradictions.” And his contradictions are many, as Daniel Swift shows. Like Richard Wagner[1], Joseph Conrad[2], and perhaps more closely Knut Hamsun, one encounters a bifurcation of mind upon contact with a deplorable artist’s great work. Yet, like the troubled Hollywood star, there is something that draws us into their lives, something that fascinates us and invites us to form an opinion however well or ill informed.

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