Saturday, December 01, 2012

Interview with Aleister Crowley in 1929

Black Magic Denials of an Englishman
Mystic Talks of His Expulsion From Paris - Exploits of a Former Spy

An Englishman, against whom there are accusations of having practiced black magic and of offences against decency, and who has bee ordered to quit Paris, has filled the news bill this week. He is Edward Alexander Crowley, and caused some stir in London years ago.

On the day preceding his departure for Brussels I had a long talk with this amazing man in his sumptuously furnished flat in the Avenue de Suffren. He was in bed recovering from an attack of influenza, and a nurse was in attendance upon him. As he lay there, his striking face lit up by piercing eyes, he related his extraordinary career.

Born in Leamington fifty-three years ago and educated at Malvern and Trinity College, Cambridge, he told me that his profession was that of a poet, and a writer on Buddhism. He had, he said, published books for over thirty years, and lived by authorship and on invested money.

A strange, wandering life he led. He travelled through China on foot, and almost succeeded in ascending the Himalayas, and was received at Thibet by the sacred lamas.

During the war he went to America and participated in German counter-espionage but he declares that he lent himself to this role in agreement with the British Naval Intelligence Service, and that by the influence he exercised he succeeded in counter-balancing the formidable German organisation that existed in the United States.

"I had no difficulty in ingratiating myself with the New York Irishmen," he said "for my name, which was that of many of them, served as a passport. I discussed with Bernadoff, the German Ambassador, the possibility of an Irish revolution, and to further this idea I wrote violent articles in the German paper in New York, 'Das Varterland' and suggested that England should become a German colony

"But I did these things in order to win the confidence of the Germans. The object I had in view was to make the German submarines sink American ships, and so compel America to enter the war. I was well in with the chief of the American Naval Intelligence Service, and I have sent him a telegram begging him to send me a letter, which I shall forward to the French Government."

When he was pressed to give me the reasons why the police had ordered him to leave France, Crowley said he knew of none. There had been allegations that he had organised parties in his flat, that black magic was practiced there, and that he was guilty of offences against morality.

He admits that he has written a great deal about magic, and I saw on the table in his bedroom a book on the subject which he said had taken him twenty years to write. This volume, he said, was only the first part of the work on which he was engaged.

"There is no accusation against me," he declared. "My sweetheart was expelled. She was told that a service was being rendered to her by separating her from me. When she demanded what it was the French authorities had against me they suggested that I was a trafficker in cocaine. This is ridiculous. Afterwards they said: 'it is not that. Perhaps that is not true. It is something else. The real reason is too terrible."


"I have lived in Paris for seven years. I have led a peaceable life, writing during the day, and playing chess at my club in the evenings. I was notified no March 9 that I would have to leave. When the police came here they were much attracted by a coffee mill, and wondered whether it was a machine for distilling cocaine.

"The oder against me is not one of expulsion. It is simply a refusal for me to continue to live in France. In other words, my right to an identity card has been withdrawn from me. The decision came upon me like a bolt from a clear sky.

"My case can be likened to that of Dreyfus. The French authorities are not obliged to give reasons for the actions they have taken against me, and I repeat that they have given none. The British Embassy has left my case severely alone. It has absolutely refused to help me.

"There was a suggestion that anybody who helped me might be expelled also. What I am insisting on is an open inquiry before which witnesses can be produced who will be prepared to make accusations against me. My case is in the hands of M. Paul Boncour, the Socialist deputy and barrister. I believe that an attempt will be made to hush up the business."

Crowley's literary works include a translation of Baudelaire and a volume of sonnets on Rodin, illustrated by reproductions of the sculptor's principal works.

At one time he was a well-known figure in Montparnasse, where he had a reputation as a master of the occult sciences. Numerous articles about him have appeared in the French Press this week. A woman writer who knew him well at one time has said that he claimed to be able to see through the thickest walls anf that he could "dislodge himself from his body"

There were allegations against him in connection with the scandal which led to the expulsion from France of Don Louis de Bourbon, the young Infant of Spain, but Crowley told me in the course of our interview that he has never seen this personality.

It is, he says, his intention to marry his sweetheart, who is in Brussels. His secretary, an American, is also there. He hopes to return to France if and when he is rehabilitated.


Mr. Crowley came into prominence in London in 1911, when his picture was painted by Augustus John. He was hotly attacked as the head of an "abbey" in Sicily, where degenerate rites were carried on. He is the author of "The Diary of a Drug Fiend" and works on the occult. It is doubtful if the authorities will welcome him into this country again.

Reynold's Illustrated Newspaper, 21 April 1929.
Clearly this piece reads like a bit of spin and one suspects that Crowley was attempting to use a, perhaps impressionable, Paris correspondent to get his side of the story out. The line before the last paragraph exists in the original also and makes me wonder if it is there because the editor didn't find enough condemnatory tone in the original piece and wanted to be clear that they had reported something of Crowley's full reputation as other newspapers at this point were going into overdrive to make sure they painted Crowley in the most exotic and degenerate manner possible for the titilation of their readership.
Portrait at top by Leon Engers Kennedy

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