Inner Traditions, 2023. Hardcover. 384 pages. Brand New.
Exploring occultist, magician, poet, painter, and writer Aleister Crowley’s longstanding and intimate association with Paris, Tobias Churton provides the first detailed account of Crowley’s activities in the City of Light.
Using previously unpublished letters and diaries, Churton explores how Crowley was initiated into the Golden Dawn’s Inner Order in Paris in 1900 and how, in 1902, he relocated to Montparnasse. Soon engaged to Anglo-Irish artist Eileen Gray, Crowley pontificates and parties with English, American, and French artists gathered around sculptor Auguste Rodin: all keen to exhibit at Paris’s famed Salon d’Automne. In 1904–still dressed as “Prince Chioa Khan” and recently returned from his Book of the Law experience in Cairo–Crowley dines with novelist Arnold Bennett at Paillard’s. In 1908 Crowley is back in Paris to prove it’s possible to attain Samadhi (or “knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”) while living a modern life in a busy metropolis. In 1913 he organizes a demonstration for artistic and sexual freedom at Oscar Wilde’s tomb. Until war spoils all in 1914, Paris is Crowley’s playground.
The author details how, after returning from America in 1920, and though based at his “Abbey of Thelema” in Sicily, Crowley can’t leave Paris alone. When Mussolini expels him from Italy, Paris becomes home from 1924 until 1929. Churton reveals Crowley’s part in the jazz-age explosion of modernism, as the lover of photographer Berenice Abbott, and many others, and how he enjoyed camaraderie with Man Ray, Nancy Cunard, André Gide, and Aimée Crocker. The author explores Crowley’s adventures in Tunisia, Algeria, the Riviera, his battle with heroin addiction, his relationship with daughter Astarte Lulu–raised at Cefalù–and finally, a high-level ministerial conspiracy to get him out of Paris.
Reconstructing Crowley’s heyday in the last decade and a half of France’s Belle Époque and the “roaring Twenties,” this book illuminates Crowley’s place within the artistic, literary, and spiritual ferment of the great City of Light.
“Aleister Crowley in Paris recasts the Beast’s biography through the lens of Belle Époque Paris, where its expat embrace of freedom, art, publishing, magick, and romance captured Crowley’s heart. We find the mage returning over the years, seeking fresh inspiration or a safe haven from his woes, whether personal or magical. Throughout this engaging narrative, Churton proves that we cannot understand Crowley without understanding his relationship to Paris.” ― Richard Kaczynski author of Perdurabo and editor of Crowley’s The Sword of Song
Tobias Churton is Britain’s leading scholar of Western Esotericism, a world authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism. He is a filmmaker and the founding editor of the magazine Freemasonry Today. An Honorary Fellow of Exeter University, where he is faculty lecturer in Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, he holds a master’s degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford, and created the award-winning documentary series and accompanying book The Gnostics, as well as several other films on Christian doctrine, mysticism, and magical folklore. The author of many books, including Gnostic Philosophy, The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians, and Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin, he lives in England.