In the bleak African deserts, a glimpse of this peripatetic odd couple must have been rather shocking. Crowley was a towering man, wearing a dramatic black robe and toted a large jewel-encrusted Calvary Cross. Neuburg, small and frail, his shaven head adorned with two tuft of hair, dyed red and twisted into Devil’s horns, trailed Crowley like a stray dog. Even by Crowley’s megalomaniacal standards, his agenda was immense and possibly delusional. He had acquired the Enochain “keys” of John Dee, and was intent on accessing the promised nineteen dimensions (Aethyrs) of consciousness (alternate realities) Dee described. (Lachman: 118). Crowley engaged in ritual acts of “self-sacrifice” along the way. Neuburg would sodomize Crowley as he invoked the god Pan and wrestled with Dee’s obscure magical formulae. During the climax of their journey, Crowley began the extremely complex and dangerous rituals to summon the demon Choronzon by opening the abyss (essentially one of the gates of hell) becoming possessed, and (hopefully) conquering the demon and returning from ‘the far shore’. By this time he had achieved the tenth Aethyr of John Dee, and felt he was capable grappling with Choronzon. Many writers frame this event as Crowley’s confrontation with his “dark side,” a sort of new age spiritual housekeeping. The ‘dark night of the soul’ is a common theme in the writings of many mystics, but it begs the question of why one should summon such a powerful and evil spiritual entity in order to induce self-reflection.
The following ceremony, sacrificial rituals, and the ultimate possession of Crowley by the demon are legendary events in occult history. As Neuburg sat in a protective circle, Crowley traced a triangle in the sand, and began with the blood sacrifice of several pigeons. In the ensuing events, Crowley appears to have been possessed by some entity. Neuburg described Crowley appearing to him in female forms, as family members, and in other more demonic visages such as a serpent. Neuburg swore that he heard “Zazas, Zazas Nastanada Zazas,” issuing from beyond (reputed to have been used by Adam to open the gates of hell). Then it happened—masses of swirling visions exploded around them as space-time was rent apart and the demon entered this world. Crowley eventually tore of his clothes and jumped on Neuburg, attempting to tear his throat out with his teeth. Finally, the ritual ended, and the men returned home (Lachman: 160-162). As with other Crowleyan mega-rituals, some have contended that he did not complete the ritual properly, and thereby left the gate to hell partially open. In his typical modesty Crowley enthused that he viewed the invocation of Chorozon as analogous to Christ’s crucifixion, and equated himself with Christ (161).
Neuburg never recovered from this event and lived out the rest of his days a shell of his former self. Crowley, on the other hand, continued his work unabated and added a new component to his repertoire: the use of art, theater, and music to create a combination of ritual and magick practices that could be experienced both as entertainment and as esoteric experience. Crowley used the term “dramatic ritual” for these new hybrid works, hoping to engage the general public with excitement and entice them into Thelemic practices through ecstasy. At the same time, these performances were also rituals that he himself was engaged in, thereby making-public his private occult practices while reaching a tenebrous hand into the mass consciousness. Crowley believed that Art is Magick and Magick is Art—in order to herald and hasten the dawning of a new Magickal Epoch previously secret and forbidden knowledge and ritual practices must be revealed to the world at large (Van Kleeck: 195). On May 9th, 1910 Crowley conducted a ritual with members of his order to summon the demon Bartzabel and employed new methodologies as a first step toward merging ritual and performance. Crowley states,
Here [in the use of a person as a “material basis” to evoke the spirit] was a startling innovation in tradition. I wrote, moreover, a ritual on entirely new principles. I retained the Cabbalistic names and formulae, but wrote most of the invocation in poetry. The idea was to work up the magical enthusiasm through the exhilaration induced by music.  (Crowley, Confessions, p. 633)
Crowley followed this success with his first public staging of “Magickal Ritual,” in this case the intent was to summon the moon for a live audience. The event itself was ticketed, and included music, stage lights, costumes and other accouterments of any entertaining theatrical production. The patrons sat on comfortable cushions and were offered a draught of wine and peyote. The event was a great success (not withstanding the influence of peyote) and Crowley proceeded with a far more ambitious work, The Rites of Eleusis (Van Kleek 199-200).
The Rites of Eleusis had little to do with Greek mythology and instead presented a sequence of seven rituals separated with a cleansing process after each segment. Crowley’s prose, as usual, was grandiloquent, lugubrious, and aesthetically flat. His major dramatic/ritual work was roundly trounced, and in fact Crowley himself, in a rare display of modesty, critiqued the work. However, it should be kept in mind that the work failed on the dramatic level—the rituals were still enacted and, for Crowley at least, the New Aeon was brought one step closer. He continued to write plays, but performances were rare. However, the idea of creating new performative ritual processes became a compelling facet of his continued evolution, and the reverberations of Crowley’s “Magickal Ritual,” I would argue, influence and refashion popular a vast array of mass and elite cultural products on a daily basis.
This work was not merely a lark, a cast-off pastime of a drug-addled aristocrat, but according to Crowley was his mandate and compulsion under the aegis his role as the Great Beast, spoken of in the Book of Revelations. In his channeled text, The Book of the Law, Crowley wrote (or his Guardian Angel in the guise of Nuit) “Nuit names the chief officer of Thelema “the chosen priest & apostle of infinite space […] the prince-priest the Beast,” who is accompanied by his consort “the Scarlet Woman”; later, in verse 32 and subsequent chapters, the Beast is specifically called “prophet.’” (Van Kleeck: 196). Outside the conventional restrictions of social mores, outside the battle for sexual liberation and personal empowerment, Crowley elevated himself as a herald of vast cosmic forces that would express themselves in humanity by total transgression of all laws, in accordance with the Will. Sex was a major factor in this enterprise,
The nightmare world of Christianity vanished at the dawn…the detestable mysteries of sex were transformed into joy and beauty. The obsession of sin fell from my shoulders into the sea of oblivion (Crowley, Confessions, 75.)
The structure of “Ritual Magick” was (and is) predicated on a mass realignment of individual and society. With this understanding, I will now draw forth some of the threads of this complex tapestry into the later half of the 20th century.
The forthcoming cast of characters, waiting off-stage during the period of Crowley’s fall into obscurity in the 1940’s, suggests a mysterious alignment with Crowley’s visionary mysticism. I will not claim that these particular associations can be taken with full evidentiary weight, but should be understood as outlines of a potential bio-energetic field that has resulted in a dramatic redefinition of the world. The full scope of my argument requires a foray into ancient history ranging from Egyptian mystery schools, the Chaldeans, Yezidis, and various Babylon cults to a detailed exegesis of groups such as The Invisible College, followers of Gurdjieff, Hermetic and Alchemical philosophy, and the topology of contemporary geopolitics. With that caveat, we will proceed to the mid 1950’s, bearing in mind that these are simply snapshots of a vast constellation of forces.
Jack Parsons, founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Aerojet Engineering Corporation, and rocket pioneer  was also a follower of Aleister Crowley. He joined the Agape Lodge and was soon corresponding with the Great Beast, addressing him as “Most Beloved Father.” His natural inclination for all things occult propelled him to a leadership position in the Hollywood lodge (with Crowley’s influence).  Parsons experimented with wife swapping (perhaps accurately cuckolding) and eventually connected with L. Ron Hubbard, who claimed to be investigating a black magic ring for naval intelligence on their first meeting (Lachman: 304). Hubbard and Parsons began a series of rituals to bring about the birth of the Moon Child (Luciferian Anti-Christ) based on Crowley’s revealed rituals, with unfortunate consequences. Parsons hoped to find the Scarlet Woman as a mother for the Moon Child, using masturbatory magic and other rituals, while Hubbard seduced his wife. Parsons began to break down mentally, taking on the moniker “Belarion Armilusss Al Dajjal Antichrist,” and shortly thereafter dying in an accidental explosion. A sample of his most famous poems allows us a glimpse into his Thelemic enlightenment:
“I hight Don Quixote, I live on peyote, marijuana, morphine and cocaine,
I never know sadness, but only a madness that burns at the heart and the brain.
I see each charwoman, ecstatic, inhuman, angelic, demonic, divine.
Each wagon a dragon, each beer mug a flagon that brims with ambrosial wine.” 
At age 37 flames consumed him in his laboratory. Go down in flames. Live Fast and Die Young. At the same time, he was conducting rituals that propelled the epochal transformations envisioned by Crowley. Robert Heinlein was a friend of Parsons—the Crowleyan agenda of his work is clearly visible as is his tremendous influence in the 60’s counter-culture ethos (Stranger in a Strange Land.) Parsons’ poem calls to mind the pitiful Neuburg, a world-class poet reduced to a degenerate wreck and a corpus of “rock and roll” poets. Do What Thou Wilt.
On December 6, 1969 Leary alighted from a helicopter onto the Altamont Speedway. The guru of LSD was about to walk into the terminus of the hippie dream and acid-soaked meta-psychotic communalism, as the Stones were finishing off their tinctures in the green room. Leary was onstage for the concert. It was so important that he had to flown via helicopter to attend the “second Wood Stock.” Ironically, the organizers of the event chose to bow out and give up their slot on the bill because of violence. Hard to understand, since the Grateful Dead’s name expressed the underlying tenor of the event—three accidental deaths, vandalism and other violence—wherein the Hells Angels beat to death a young man as Mick flounced and preened in his “rebellious” invocation of Satan. Great, we made our parents angry. Yeah, we have destroyed Christianity! We’re just letting off steam. As the bad acid circulated in the damaged nervous systems of the fans, Mick intoned the prophetic words “Please to meet you, hope you guess my name! Because what’s troubling you is the nature of my game.” His leering, faux southern accent grates on the nerves, but the band has power, a visceral power to move and transform. Ritual Magick? Or just good times gone bad? Rolling Stone magazine featured a cover story on the event on January 21, 1970. They interview a concertgoer regarding the ritual murder,
I think there was two people that stabbed him. One had his hair straight. It was straight and thick, and it was straight back, combed straight back. The front of his . . . you know . . . he combed it back so much that the front of his head was kind of bald . . . getting thin. I know what he looks like but, I can’t describe him.
We rubbed his back up and down to get the blood off so we could see, and there was a big hole on his spine and a big hole on the side and there was a big hole in his temple. A big open slice. You could see all the way in. You could see inside. You could see at least an inch down and stuff, you know. And then there was a big hole right where there’s no ribs on his back…and then the side of his head was just sliced open . . . you couldn’t see so far in . . . it was bleeding quite heavy . . . but his back wasn’t bleeding too heavy after that . . . there . . . all of us were drenched in blood.
The issue’s cover is emblazoned “Let it Bleed,” another popular Stones album. The article continues with a detailed description of the Hunter’s injuries by an attending physician. The question arises—after reading the interview do we need three more pages of graphic medical details? Look at the cover of “Let it Bleed,” depicting a strange phonographic contraption with seven layers, the uppermost is fruit cake with figurines of the band members, the second a bicycle tire, the third a pizza, fourth a clock face, fifth a film canister, and lower tier a record with an archaic record arm from a Victorola player. The back cover depicts the desiccation these elements—the tire is patched with a red tape and gauze, the record is smashed, the figurines toppled, the album broken and annotated with a pizza slice. Interestingly, given the context of the film produced at the concert and the magazine cover page, the film canister has been opened, and the tape hangs at a right angel to the broken stylus.
Exactly sixty years to the day Crowley summoned Chorozon while the befuddled Neuburg cowered in abject terror. It seems unlikely that the Stones would be aware of such an esoteric correspondence, given that Crowley was largely forgotten until just a few years before. How could a few people, Robert Frazer and Kenneth Anger primarily, single handedly change the corpus and existential paradigm of the leading rock icons in a matter of months? That is the holy writ in the majority of rock literature and general knowledge. However, since Kenneth Anger, considered by some to be the heir to Aleister Crowley was a regular participant in the Stones entourage, and that he had recently cast Mick Jagger to play Satan in an upcoming film Lucifer Rising, it is highly probable that they were aware of the significance of this date. It is common knowledge that Stones were increasingly involved in occult practices and that Jagger was an avid reader of Crowley and other esoteric authors. Other elements of the concert that are questionable include the fact that the venue was changed and only finally announced twenty hours before the concert, toilet facilities were extremely limited, and 300,000 fans attended this “free” event. As a professional musician, I am fully aware of the difficulties of arranging a concert, even a relatively small-scale event. To announce the venue less than twenty-four hours seems ludicrous. Mick Taylor was very upset about the event, describing it as “barbaric.” Richards, the eternal junkie, was quite sanguine, opining that it “was basically well-handled, but lots of people were tired and a few tempers got frayed.” Satana lamented that they didn’t check the Astrology before the event, and that the stars predicated violence, but “maybe the Stones know something I don’t.”
The question is why would you choose the Hells Angels to be security? Wavy Gravy, a major acid distributor at Woodstock contended that security was unnecessary since ‘people just didn’t have time to vibe.’ On the anniversary a seminal event in 20th century occult history the hippie dream imploded into clouds of bad acid, violence, paranoia and greed. There are multiple examples to trace the “do your own thing” ethos from the proto-Satanist Graham Bond who claimed to be Crowley’s offspring, to the public occult ritual perpetrated by Harry Smith with his esoteric and ritually organized Anthology of American Folk Music (who also claimed Crowleyan parentage), to the Beatles, ad infinitum. This single example hopefully will elucidate certain underground currents hiding in plain sight. Crowley contended that during the ascension of the Third Aeon rituals should be half visible and half obscured. Revelation of the method. The final stage in the occultic transmogrification of mass consciousness.
Returning to the ever-petulant Jagger, swaggering like a punch drunk boxer in his red cape, the mayhem continued, so to the filming and music. Tony Sanchez describes the scene,
“Strangely several of the kids were stripping off their clothes and crawling to the stage as if it were a high altar, there to offer themselves as victims for the boots and cues of the Angels. The more they were beaten and bloodied, the more they were impelled, as if by some supernatural force, to offer themselves as human sacrifices to these agents of Satan.” (Sanchez, 201-202)
Jagger was resplendent in his ritual robes. The core of the countercultural revolution was being gutted and he kept singing. Simultaneously spectacle and performance, the low stage height blurred the difference between the “stars” and the “masses,” articulating the participatory journey Crowley had envisaged sixty years to the date. The documentary evidence was edited, superimposing a lackluster “Under My Thumb” for “I killed the Czar and his Ministers/ While the nation screamed in pain.” Documentary as constructed reality—the first snuff film or simply a failed concert? Sabbatai Zevi’s voice echoes over the centuries through Jagger’s fevered invocation, “Every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints.” Is Crowley gazing down and offering a synchronic benediction?
Filmed in 1968 and released in 1970 the film Performance starred Mick Jagger as a rock star who has “lost his demon” and lives with two lovely ladies who both partake in his bed. In a disjunctive sequence Jagger suddenly recounts the narrative of Hassan-i-Sabbah and proclaims his epigraph “nothing is real everything is permitted,” and like the Old Man of the Mountain, he watches the Hells Angels end a life—in public, a ritual murder, an act of sheer terror with an inherent force multiplier because of its performative nature ripples through the generations like a tidal wave. At Alamut or in Altamont the actions are similar; both are distanced and refracted by the spectral gaze of simulation, reenactment, imagined fear, and the isolation of the Star above the multitudes.
The disenchanted psychedelic guru Leary, watching in the wings, was compelled by chance, mystical force, or artifice to reenact the Crowley’s ritual near Bou-Saada in Algeria a few years later. Like the communal energy that was invoked in the summer of love and fractured into the self-absorbed ‘me generation’ of the ’70’s, Leary’s gnostic empire of psychedelic stupor was curtailed by a ganja bust, and miraculous prison escape into the parts unknown. Leary lived as a gypsy, but finally found his life’s mission through a serendipitous acid trip in Algeria. In his hagiography this event is surely the most seminal, as it binds together (the root meaning of religion) all the threads of his life into a divinely (or demonically) mandated plan. With his traveling companion and fellow nashare  they dropped acid ‘somewhere in the African desert.’ The experience they had was revelatory for both.
Walking in the desert, they ingested a heroic dose of high grade LSD and soon intense visions began to manifest. While Leary is circumspect, Barritt recounted the full details in his book The Road of Excess, describing the intense visions of entire histories of the world, floating pyramids, a cosmic ferry boat between life and death, and an assent into the moon. In the morning, Leary walked in circles reciting Enochain magic spells, refusing to communicate with Barritt. In the mist, Barritt saw a figure approaching him—Dr. John Dee. Several months later, relaxing in Leary’s pad in Switzerland Barrit picked up a random book that turned out to be Crowley’s confessions and was astonished to discover that, not only had they been at the same location, but had experienced the same revelations as Leary. Leary was overcome with the feeling that he was directly connecting with Crowley and began to study all the literature he could get his hands on. He even claimed at times to be a reincarnation of Crowley, here on earth to bring “freedom and love,” and obsessively mused that his “programing” was the causal factor of all the events in his life. Leary’s autobiography merged the titles of Crowley’s Confessions and Diary of a Drug Fiend into Confessions of a Hope Fiend. On an interview a few years before his death he admitted that he was fulfilling Crowley’s vision through his entire life’s work.
Rock-and-roll creates a ritual space, filling the vacuum left between youth and maturity, between law and freedom, filling the void left by the decline of traditional values with deities who create lifestyles to be emulated. It is primarily performative and spectacular, living in images, films, and fashion. Altamont was as much a real event as a meta-fictional narrative. As the Stones watch the footage of the Hunter’s murder, Jagger remarks, “You couldn’t see anything. It was just another scuffle.”
For every Jagger and Jimi Page there are multitudes of musicians and fans that did not fare so well on their ascent of the Celestial Ladder—multitudes of unknown rock’n’roll Magick practitioners stream through concert halls and bars, broken and debased. G.G. Allin is surely the omega point of this dark philosophy, but the rock landscape is strewn examples, both tragic and grotesque. Graham Bond was a highly influential English blues musician who helped develop the early rock scene in England and jumped started the careers of artists such as Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and John McLaughlin. A serious heroin addict, he used LSD to kick his habit. This resulted a manic obsession with Alestier Crowley and ritual Magick. Believing himself to be Crowley’s son, he produced several albums dedicated to “dramatic rituals” and Magick, eventually ending up in a mental institution and throwing himself under a train at age 36.  Skip Spence, the original drummer for the Jefferson Airplane began consuming LSD in large quantities, meeting his divine “Master” (as per Crowley), and spent the rest of his days in a mental institution. He ranted, “I’m a derelict. I’m a world savior. I am drugs. I am rock and roll.” (Szatmary, 167). In 1969, Rocky Erikson of the 13th Floor Elevators was sentenced to three years in Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Upon his release he denied ever playing in the band, stating that he was only interested in the devil and the occult. (Shapiro,143). And so on, ad infinitum. Sid Barrett, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Keith Moon. The mythology persists.
Punk rock arose as an alternative to the self-sanctimonious “peace and love” proffered by the hippies. Mark Perry, editor of the fanzine Sniffin’ Glue, contends that ‘“Getting into the Sex Pistols wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I like this new band.’ It was really a lifestyle choice. If you got into the Pistols, you changed your life. That’s how dramatic it was”’ (Szatmary, 244). Sid Vicious, the Pistols’ notorious bass player died of a heroin overdose at the ripe old age of 21. G.G. Allin personified the extremes of punk rock. He claimed on the Geraldo Rivero show that his whole body was a ‘rock-and-roll’ temple; his blood, feces, urine, and semen were all sacraments. GG’s shows were fueled by alcohol, drugs, and the rage he felt while singing the violent, perverted, and hate filled lyrics to his songs.
“Covered in his own blood and feces, he would prowl the stage stalking the weak or the people he thought were just attending the show to see a spectacle. He was a ticking time bomb ready to explode on anyone who dared to cross him or stand in his way. You could have been his best friend before the show, worst nightmare during the show, and his bitter enemy in the aftermath of the show.”
Ironically, his birth name was “Jesus Christ Allin.” In last interview in 1993 he proclaims his status as a both a revolutionary and a pied-piper “I am the underground messiah. If you have kids out there, they’re my kids. I’m going to own those kids.” He later proclaims his messianic mission, “I am the king. I am the messiah. I rule the rock and roll underground. I’m bringing us to a revolution-against the government, against the police, against any form of society that is trying to put us down.”  The true icon of “do what thou wilt,” offering freedom from all restrictions and discipline, freedom from all boundaries and authorities. Mirroring Crowley’s personal practices and the animalistic rituals enacted by his followers at the Abbey of Thelema. Dead at age 36.
In conclusion, this complex tapestry of associations, historical events, and trans-historical mysticism, while empirically documentable, raises a host of questions and possible interpretations. Guy Debord’s prescient analysis of contemporary society offers one interpretive framework, “Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle…Power draped itself in the outward garb of a mythical order from the beginning…The spectacle preserves unconsciousness as practical changes in the conditions of existence proceed. The spectacle is self-generated, and makes up its own rules: it is a specious form of the sacred… In the course of this development all community and critical awareness have ceased to be ”(20-21). What are the self-congratulatory narratives, the construction of rock gods, and barely understood mass rituals but a ‘specious form of the sacred’? Debord again: “ The spectacle’s function in society is the concrete manufacture of alienation” (23). The communities created at Woodstock and Altamont, the imagined communities of listeners identifying themselves with outlaw heroes in teenage attics and basements, and the deification of the “star” as a reflection of all that is desirable in life are, in actuality, vectors of alienation. The deeper meanings of the pivotal events in the 1960’s are lost to a great majority; ignoring the strange synchronicities and hidden occult elements, or even embracing them, the incandescent images and ultimately empty communal experiences are projected into history through constant reinforcement. “By means of the spectacle the ruling order discourses endlessly upon itself in an uninterrupted monologue of self praise” (ibid.19), seducing the audience into ever-increasing debasement and alienation, as distant laughter reverberates from secret grottos and resplendent mansions.
Of course, this could all be the antics of an experimental generation, and simple coincidence. Or are these rituals in deadly earnest? Crowley’s hidden hand manipulates destinies from beyond the grave; every burned-out acidhead a ritual oblation on the altar of excess and hedonism. Regardless of the final truth of the matter, the power of images to shape and alter minds, the retraction of the real and the usurpation of the sacred by disconnected spectacles, and the amplification of esoteric antinomian cultic practices reflect a decaying and life-negating culture. To unconsciously participate is to embrace and celebrate the very soul-crushing machinery one is supposedly rejecting.
Barrit, Brian. The Road of Excess: A Psychedelic Autobiography. Psi Publishing, 1998.
Corbin, Henry. Cyclical Time & Ismaili Gnosis. Routledge & Kegan Paul International, 1983.
Crowley, Alesiter. Diary of a Drug Fiend. S. Weiser, 1970.
Crowley, Alesiter. The Book of the Law. S. Weiser, 1987 (reissue)
Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Zone Books, 1994.
Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press, 1992.
Leary, Timothy. Confessions of a Hope Fiend. Bantam Books, 1973.
Lachman, Gary. Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World. Tracher, 2014.
Weishaupt, Adam. Translated by Tony Page. Supplement to the Justification of My Intentions by Adam Weishaupt, Justice Publications, Bangkok, Amazon Kindle, 2014.
Sanchez, Tony. Up and Down with the Rolling Stones: My Rollercoaster Ride with Keith Richards. John Blake, 2011.
Shapiro, Harry. Waiting for the Man: The Story of Drugs and Popular Music. Helter Skelter Publishing, 2003.
Szatmary, David P. Rockin’ in Time: A Social History of Rock-and-Roll. Prentice Hall, 2010.
Spence, Richard B. Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult. Feral House, 2008.
 Van Kleek: 198
 Crowley’s confirmed intelligence connections raises interesting questions regarding their association.
 An Urdu term indicating one who lives for ecstatic experiences through drugs.
 While Bond remains an obscure figure, there are several decent online sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Bond; http://classicrock.teamrock.com/news/cult-heroes-no-47-graham-bond/; http://www.teamrock.com/features/2014-05-08/graham-bond-the-devil-inside-2