The Death of Aleister Crowley by R J Dent

THE DEATH OF ALEISTER CROWLEY


Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, Saturday, 6th December, 1947

At 11am on Saturday, 1st December, 1947, Aleister Crowley died (in Room 13 of Netherwood, a Hastings guest house) of myocardial degeneration, aggravated by chronic bronchitis, aged 72.


Aleister Crowley in bed in Room 13, Netherwood, Hastings

Perhaps not surprisingly, given Aleister Crowley’s infamous reputation, there are a number of differing accounts of Crowley’s death. These include:

‘He was well taken care of. I made him have a nurse about 3 months ago as he was dirty and neglected and he had Watson who was most devoted and the Symonds were as nice as they knew how to be. At the last Mrs MacAlpine and the boy were there. I saw him the day he died, but he did not recognise me. I think Mrs. MacAlpine was with him but she says there was no struggle, just stopped breathing. I shall miss him terribly. An irreplaceable loss.’

​Letter from Frieda Harris to Frederic Mellinger
​7th December, 1947

‘Frieda Harris told me that Crowley died unhappily and fearfully. She held his twitching hands while the tears flowed down his cheeks. “I am perplexed,” he said. She was not with him at the very end. A Mr Rowe was there; he was in the room with a nurse, and according to him, Crowley’s last words were: “Sometimes I hate myself.”’

​John Symonds
​The Beast 666, The Life of Aleister Crowley
​Pindar Press, 1997, p585

‘Herr Ralph Tegtmeier, author and translator, and Chief of the Saturn-Gnosis Lodge of the OTO, claims that he saw a magical sign apparently drawn by Crowley on the external brickwork of Netherwood. He found it so disturbing that he wiped it away a dish-cloth – and the next day Crowley died.’

Gerald Suster
​The Legacy of the Beast, The Life, Work and Influence of Aleister Crowley
​W.H. Allen, 1988, p76

‘Deirdre Patricia MacAlpine, who was certainly at Netherwood at the time, has stated Frieda Harris was not present on the day Crowley died and that there were definitely no scenes of remorse and weeping or an unhappy and fearful death. According to her account the bedridden Great Beast was in good spirits, talking to her and the children on the day before he died. He passed away peacefully and at the moment of his death a gust of wind blew in the curtains and a clap of thunder was heard.’

​Anthony Clayton and Gary Lachman
​Netherwood: Last Resort of Aleister Crowley
​Accumulator Press, 2017, p195

‘The Manager of Netherwood at that time, a gentleman whom I shall call Mr W.H., showed me what is probably Crowley’s last signature on the back of a laundry bill. One cannot discern any motive for lying in Mr W.H. He has never taken the slightest interest in occultism; he now earns his living as a chartered accountant; and when we met in the mid-seventies he was astounded to learn that Crowley had made a come-back and kept saying: “Well, I never.” According to Mr W.H., Crowley used to pace up and down his living room. One day the Beast was pacing and Mr W.H. was on the floor below, polishing furniture. Suddenly there was a crash. Mr W.H. went upstairs and entered Crowley’s rooms to find him dead on the floor.’
Gerald Suster
​The Legacy of the Beast, The Life, Work and Influence of Aleister Crowley
​W.H. Allen, 1988, p76


Aleister Crowley’s death certificate (3515105-2/DYD113986) gave his name as Edward Alexander Crowley; his age at death as 72 years; his occupation, author. Crowley’s death was certified by Hasting physician, William Magowan, MB. The cause of death was attributed to myocardial degeneration, aggravated by chronic bronchitis. There was an added note describing the deceased as a Chronic Heroin Addict’. The Informant of Crowley’s death was his friend, Herbert

Crowley’s funeral was held at a Brighton Cemetery crematorium on the afternoon of Friday, 5th December, 1947. About a dozen of Crowley’s friends attended. A number of newspaper reporters were also present. At 2.45pm, Crowley’s coffin was carried into the chapel and placed on the bier. Crowley’s friend, Louis Wilkinson read excerpts from Crowley’s The Book of the Law (which Crowley always maintained was his most important text):

49. I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.
50. Curse them! Curse them! Curse them!
51. With my Hawk's head I peck at the eyes of Jesus as he hangs upon the cross.
52. I flap my wings in the face of Mohammed & blind him.
53. With my claws I tear out the flesh of the Indian and the Buddhist, Mongol and Din.
54. Bahlasti! Ompehda! I spit on your crapulous creeds.
Bottom of Form
55. Let Mary inviolate be torn upon wheels: for her sake let all chaste women be utterly despised among you!
56. Also for beauty’s sake and love’s.
57. Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise.
58. But the keen and the proud, the royal and the lofty; ye are my brothers!
59. As brothers fight ye!
60. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

The Book of Law
Aleister Crowley

Wilkinson also read Crowley’s most well-known poem, ‘Hymn to Pan’. Because of the readings, the funeral generated press controversy, and was labelled a Black Mass by some of the tabloids. An urn containing Crowley's ashes were sent to his successor, Karl Germer, the new head of the OTO, in the United States. Germer buried Crowley’s ashes in his garden in Hampton, New Jersey.

Hymn to Pan
Aleister Crowley

Thrill with lissome lust of the light,
O man! My man!
Come careering out of the night
Of Pan! Io Pan!
Io Pan! Io Pan! Come over the sea
From Sicily and from Arcady!
Roaming as Bacchus, with fauns and pards
And nymphs and satyrs for thy guards,
On a milk-white ass, come over the sea
To me, to me!
Come with Apollo in bridal dress
(Shepherdess and pythoness)
Come with Artemis, silken shod,
And wash thy white thigh, beautiful god,
In the moon of the woods, on the marble mount,
The dimpled dawn of the amber fount!
Dip the purple of passionate prayer
In the crimson shrine, the scarlet snare,
The soul that startles in eyes of blue
To watch thy wantonness weeping through
The tangled grove, the gnarled bole
Of the living tree that is spirit and soul
And body and brain — come over the sea,
(Io Pan! Io Pan!)
Devil or god, to me, to me,
My man! my man!
Come with trumpets sounding shrill
Over the hill!
Come with drums low muttering
From the spring!
Come with flute and come with pipe!
Am I not ripe?
I, who wait and writhe and wrestle
With air that hath no boughs to nestle
My body, weary of empty clasp,
Strong as a lion and sharp as an asp —
Come, O come!
I am numb
With the lonely lust of devildom.
Thrust the sword through the galling fetter,
All-devourer, all-begetter;
Give me the sign of the Open Eye,
And the token erect of thorny thigh,
And the word of madness and mystery,
O Pan! Io Pan!
Io Pan! Io Pan Pan! Pan Pan! Pan,
I am a man:
Do as thou wilt, as a great god can,
O Pan! Io Pan!
Io Pan! Io Pan Pan! I am awake
In the grip of the snake.
The eagle slashes with beak and claw;
The gods withdraw:
The great beasts come. Io Pan! I am borne
To death on the horn
Of the Unicorn.
I am Pan! Io Pan! Io Pan Pan! Pan!
I am thy mate, I am thy man,
Goat of thy flock, I am gold, I am god,
Flesh to thy bone, flower to thy rod.
With hoofs of steel I race on the rocks
Through solstice stubborn to equinox.
And I rave; and I rape and I rip and I rend
Everlasting, world without end,
Mannikin, maiden, Maenad, man,
In the might of Pan.
Io Pan! Io Pan Pan! Pan! Io Pan!


RJ Dent is a novelist, poet, translator, essayist and short story writer. He has translated Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil (2009), and Le Comte de LautrĂ©amont’s The Songs of Maldoror (illustrated by Salvadore Dali) (2011) to critical acclaim. His poems, short stories, novellas and essays continue to appear in numerous magazines and journals.






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