Aleister Crowley and Freemasonry
Aleister Crowley and Freemasonry
Aleister Crowley, a brilliant student of symbolism and ritual, had at least four major contacts with Freemasonry as a complete body.
In 1900, while in Mexico, Crowley became involved with a Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite. This period of Central American Craft Freemasonry has been described as a chaotic mess; masonic bodies springing up and dissolving within a matter of days. Crowley was supposedly initiated into the 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, thus obtaining the title of Grand Inspector General. This title is actually one of administrative rank, and not of ritual degree. The 33° is styled Sovereign Grand Inspector-General and is sparingly conferred by the Supreme Councils of the recognised jurisdictions. There does not appear to be any record of this conferment other than his claim made in The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.
In about 1904 Crowley was initiated into Craft Freemasonry in Anglo-Saxon Lodge No. 343, recognized, as of 1964, under the jurisdiction of the Grande Loge Nationale Française in Paris as No. 103. At the time it was under the jurisdiction of the Grande Loge de France, and so was not recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England as a regular masonic body. He was initiated, passed and raised over a period of several months in 1904. It is suggested but unconfirmed that he was proposed by a country parson from Oxfordshire.
Finally, at around the 1910 period, came Crowley’s episode with John Yarker. Yarker was initiated on October 25, 1854 in Liberty Lodge No. 189, was a frequent writer on masonic matters, was a member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 (the premier lodge of masonic research), and had been involved, in 1871, with the setting up of a Grand Council in Manchester of the
, a concatenation of the Ancient and Accepted, and the Rites of Memphis and Mizraim, chartered from the United States of America by Harry J. Seymour (these Egyptian rites were considered irregular by the Grand Orient of France, the first being labeled “dead” by Thevenot, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient of France, in a letter to the United Grand Lodge of England in 1872 and the latter being dissolved in 1817). This Grand Council was not recognised by the Supreme Council in Duke Street. St. James, who had expelled Yarker, established the Antient and Primitive Rite in Great Britain.
Towards the end of his life, Yarker was looking for someone to carry on the work of the A&P Rite in England, and decided on that person being Crowley. To this effect, he bestowed on Crowley, by post, the degrees of 33°, 90° and 95°; respectively, the Ancient and Accepted, Memphis and Mizraim. No evidence is available that the two ever met.
After Yarker’s death (which is reported in the Oriflamme, the then Ordo Templi Orientis newsletter, for 1913; and also marked by an obituary in Crowley’s publication, The Equinox), there was a meeting at Crowley’s apartment on the Fulham Road. H. Meyer was elected the new Grand Master General, and Crowley the Grand Administrator General, and also a Patriarch Grand Conservator, his status being elevated to 33°, 90° and 96°. Following this, Crowley did very little, if anything in relation to the Ancient and Primitive Rite, concentrating his “masonic” tendencies in the body of the Ordo Templi Orientis
In 1913, Crowley apparently wrote to the United Grand Lodge of England claiming his right to attend lodge meetings, and affiliate as a joining member. If any, the response would have been a rebuttal, due to the irregularity of his mother lodge. This correspondence is not extant; all that survives is Crowley’s draft, transcribed from shorthand and dated 1913.
The United Grand Lodge of England does not recognize Crowley as a member of the Craft. All his affiliations were with irregular bodies, and so they deny him recognition.
Amended, with additional information, from a report by Matt D.A. Fletcher, London: 1994.
Martin P. Starr, “Aleister Crowley: Freemason!”Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2078. Vol. 108, for the year 1995. ed. Robert A. Gilbert, P.M. Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner Ltd.,: Frome and London. p. 150.