In recent years the legendary Aleister Crowley has attracted a growing fascination from a wide range of people for his life and his magickal work. This has led to a large number of books detailing his life and his spiritual philosophy.
Some of the Crowley biographies have been good—others have been scurlious hatchet jobs, but each has brought to our awareness a different perspective on this somewhat flawed genius.
The question that is asked by any newcomer to the life and works of Aleister Crowley is where does one attain an accurate, insightful and balanced interpretation of Crowley’s life, his magick and spiritual philosophies?
Many people make the mistake on believing that the most authoriative statement on Crowley is possibly the one made by Crowley himself.
To this end, many turn to Crowley’s own biography The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Originally published in 1929, this mighty and extensive non-critical, self-analysis is an interesting expose of the somewhat confused eccentric ramblings of a powerfully egoist character. Sadly, not even Crowley through his own volumous writings and journals could portray himself accurately and place his life into the grander schemes of the magickal universe that he inhabited for most of his life.
Thus it has been the task of many other independent writers and researchers to follow in the steps of ‘Confessions’ and to attempt to chronicle Crowley’s life and to reveal the true the significance of his magick to the modern Western esoteric tradition.
Now that some seventy-five years have passed since Aleister Crowley’s death it is worth noting that the history of autobiographies dedicated to the magus is nearly as fascinating and colorful as the life of the man himself. Perdurabo by Richard Kaczynski has its own rightful place in the pantheon of Crowley biographies. Originally published in paperback form (original cover image left) it sold quickly and gained the respect of Thelemic and historical commentators alike. Sadly, the book did not remain in print for very long and the price of second-hand copies soon sky-rocketed to reflect the books desirability and scarcity.
A couple of years after its initial publication and ‘Perdurabo’ has subsequently been re-published—this time in an expanded hardback version by North Atlantic Books. It now weighs in at a mighty 700 pages and has been beautifully edited with rare and never-previously seen photos. First impressions are of a book that has been thoughtfully and conscientiously produced by a real student of Crowley containing as it does an extensive index as well as a concise collection of referenced material and image credits.
Crowley’s original autobiography, as has been the case with most subsequent biographies that have been written of him since, is that it is effective only as a compilation of events and circumstances. Given that over a century has passed since Crowley’s most significant events in his life occured it is little wonder that few writers have met the challenge of placing his life-time experiences into the wider and more general social environment that was concurrent with his era.
Anyone who has studied Crowley knows that whilst he was a remarkable individual who followed the dictates of his Will to the best of his ability he was also a product, or outcast, of the stiffling social value systems of the Victorian era that he was born into. Indeed, it was his internalised anger and resentment that he felt towards orthodox religion in particualr that fuelled his initial forays into the world of magick and occultism.
In Perdurabo its author Richard Kaczynski has infused the remarkable reputation of Crowley with a great deal of background information drawn from material that few other researchers have found necessary to trawl. The result is a book that is rich in insight and one that firmly evaluates Crowley’s life in a wonderfully engaging way.
For example, Crowleys’ early family life, his parents and other family members influence in his development are examined with reference to their own personal philosophical and religious beliefs. This also includes information on their business, political and social interests—once again, this adds greatly to the picture that is formed in a reader’s mind as to the world that young Alick inhabited and from which he firmly ejected himself at the earliest opportunity.
Perdurabo follows the primary events in Crowley life; from his early days as a member of the Golden Dawn through to the pivotal events that over-took him in tha Cairo hotel bedroom in April 1904 and through to his formulation of the Abbey of Thelema and its subsequent tragic events.
Throughout all of this the author’s desire to get into the head of Crowley—to portray the man as a human and spiritual being rather than the Beast that so many other commentators dwell upon in their assessment of the man, is revealed. The result is a book that takes you on a fascinating journey into the life of one of the most significant figures of the twentieth century—it is a book that Crowley himself would have been immensely proud of should he have written it himself!
As much as ‘Perdurabo’ leaves me with thinking that this simply HAS to be the definitive commentary on Aleister Crowley this would be a foolish statement to make given that there may yet still be new reserves of insight into Crowley from those who knew him or who were touched (either for good or ill) by his life.
However, from a historical perspective, ‘Perdurabo’ is the finest work on Crowley to date—bar none! It is a monumental and mountainous work that Crowley as a mountaineer himself would have been only too enthusiastic to scale himself. It contains lofty peaks and equally treacherous lanscape which few others would attempt but it is worth every step taken along its route by seasoned and novice spiritual climbers alike.
Perdurabo is a thoroughly recommended work. It is a credit to its author and a benchmark by which to judge all other Crowley biographies. Wonderful!