Judging from the notes I took when I read it back in 2007, this was among the more enjoyable reads I had yet found in my then-new reading lists. My reJudging from the notes I took when I read it back in 2007, this was among the more enjoyable reads I had yet found in my then-new reading lists. My recollection has somewhat dimmed, but it does stand as more flat-out entertaining than Fellini's very loose film adaptation (more like "inspired by" than "based on"). What I most remember today is that, when people look on modern decadence and decay and prophesy the end of civilization, Petronius had them well beat to the punch—"You are the assassins of an entire race, my foolish friends. Because of you, the great Roman Empire will crumble and so too will all civilization," he wrote, some hundreds of years before it finally occurred—and here civilization still stands, teetering perhaps, but here nonetheless....more
Crowley considered himself to be "England's greatest living poet." Insofar as that may be true, this perhaps explains why American schools do not bothCrowley considered himself to be "England's greatest living poet." Insofar as that may be true, this perhaps explains why American schools do not bother teaching late-19th or early-20th Century English poetry in non-specialist literature classes.
This slim volume contains both Crowley's long-form (40 pages) didactic poetic dialog, along with the brief contextual attachment "The Argumentation" in a very small typeface, and an opening Commentary by his one-time student-secretary Israel Regardie. This last, which comes first, written in 1969 long after their separation and the master's death, provides some additional context to the root text as well as a sort of Intro-to-Crowley and a bit of lamentation for what the student sought and found not.
While this work is intended to explicate The Path of Attainment as Crowley saw it (in 1910, so obviously a lot was to change as he himself grew and progressed through his later initiations), I find that the poetry itself—of a style so foreign to modern American ears, at once lyric and forced, Homeric and Hallmarky—often obscures the meaning. Coming from a tradition that would often include deliberate "blinds" intended to hide information from the profane, perhaps this was intentional, but it doesn't feel so. And despite this fact, a bit of digging and scratching will reveal to the established student of Thelema a few worthwhile pointers to understanding aspects of his program, which pointers I am unaware of having appeared elsewhere.
Final analysis: entirely worthwhile for the serious student of Crowley, Thelema, English mystical poetry, and perhaps Regardie; entirely skippable for most anyone else.
[ETA: apparently this is my 200th review here]...more
Not only is this among the first* reasonably honest examinations of "recreational" drug use, the consequences of addiction, and an avenue toward treatNot only is this among the first* reasonably honest examinations of "recreational" drug use, the consequences of addiction, and an avenue toward treatment, it also serves as a good narrative introduction to Crowley's conceptions of both Magick ("the art and science of causing change in conformity with will") and Thelema (from the Greek word for "will," used to denominate his particular religio-philisophical system). The prose, while remarkable, is perhaps just a smidgen turgid and Victorian—or perhaps Edwardian—for modern tastes, but suffers not greatly for that as it well fits the period of the story, which is presented in three sections parallel to Dante, though reordered: Paradiso, Inferno, Purgatorio. Segments of the story also provide some insight into what Crowley wanted the Abbey of Thelema at Cefalù (Sicily, Italy) to look like, given that it was published and presumably at least partly written during its operation, even if the reality of life there was markedly different. In that respect, I daresay the work was perhaps intended in part as a sort of long-form advertising brochure for the Abbey project, prior to his expulsion by Mussolini.
This particular trade-paperback edition—the 1985 seventh printing from Weiser, which still seems to be a relative commonplace of used book shops—is sturdily bound and attractively printed. It is perhaps a bit bulky for its mere 368 pages, but I suppose that means the paper is relatively high quality.
In all, I've found it entertaining and useful enough that I've had it checked out of the local O.T.O. library for something over a decade—long enough that they probably don't even have it properly catalogued—and it's about time that I finish this review, complete my notes, and return it. Thank goodness they don't use due dates!