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The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley 1905-1907 was originally a trilogy of books published by the occultist, magician, and self-proclaimed prophet of Thelema, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) during his early career as student of magick, and is now considered among his very numerous rarities.

The first volume was published in 1905 but contains his poems and plays between 1898 and 1902 and is what he admits to be his juvenilia.Most of these early works show little in the way of magic but are an introduction to Crowley’s knowledge of religion and mythology. It’s interesting to see how, after Crowley’s first book White Stains was banned and pulped, his consequent works of 1898 were quite mellow, almost gothic and Christian, with the first two hiding behind the pseudonym “A Gentlemen of the University of Cambridge” (no doubt after Percy Shelley’s “A Gentlemen of the University of Oxford” for similar reasons). Aceldama, named after the place where Judas hanged himself (“the field of blood”) is a philosophical lament that sees sin as the only abyss of life. The Tale of Archais is a dramatic love poem telling the story of Charicles and Archais, a girl condemned of turning into a snake. Charicles prays to his mother Aphrodite to change him into a beautiful girl to lure Zeus’ love and make him vow to change into a mortal for him/her, this then so Archais can bite and finally kill Zeus to lift the curse. The allusions to adultery and the Christian God are obvious in this comedy.

After Songs of the Spirit the poems pick up Crowley’s love of adulterous sex in the name of sin with the likes of “The Honourable Adulterers”, “The Five Kisses” (both in Mysteries) and Jezebel and other Tragic Poems (in fact the word “tragedy” was added to these pieces, along with their own pseudonyms “A.E.C” and “Count Vladimir Svareff”, again to protect Crowley’s early reputation. He knew in himself they were actually comedies)

The Temple of the Holy Ghost is a fusing of the poems in The Mother’s Tragedy and other Poems and The Soul of Osiris: A History and now introduces Golden Dawn allusions, Sanskrit yoga terms, qabbalistic terms and Egyptian mythology. It was this latter book that was reviewed by the British poet and writer G. K. Chesterton quite polemically that lead to Crowley’s early feud with him.

The last piece, Tanhäuser: A Story of all Time, ends Crowley’s amateur stage and tells the legend of the Christian knight Tanhäuser, already expressed by Wagner. Crowley’s source for the tale was probably the occult scholar Arthur Edward Waite. Tanhäuser in the play leaves his Christian community and his childhood darling Elizabeth for the myst
eries of Egypt and the God beyond time. Oddly Crowley once stated that this play contained the theory of special relativity only Einstein usurped the phenomenon in 1905 by being more blatant.

The second volume showed Crowley’s maturing poetry and plays of 1902-1904, with the second half of this book breaking into many prose works based on his new-found interest in nineteenth-century philosophy and Buddhism; keeping in mind that Crowley received The Book of the Law from the intelligence Aiwass about this time. Snowdrops from a Curate’s Garden and The Goetia were not included in this volume.

The final volume of Aleister Crowley’s collected works have a flamboyancy of style which will be seen in the following period of his editorial The Equinox. It collects his writings from 1904-1907. The contents appear less than the others only because the final work Orpheus was substantially long, taking up maybe 40% of the book.


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