For better or worse, Aleister Crowley is the face of the modern-day Illuminati religion. He was a controversial figure, but few can deny the impact he had on popularizing the occult during the 20th century. In order to understand the occult, it is necessary to gain a basic knowledge of his work.
This is only an overview of Crowley. Also note that for the purposes of this article, I am defining the “Illuminati” as a loosely organized religion as I have explained elsewhere. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into any detail beyond this as there is already an extensive literature about him that can be found elsewhere. My go to reference for information regarding Crowley is Lawrence Sutin’s 2014 biography Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, however there are many references beyond this. In fact, if you do any independent research on the occult you will inevitably hear about his life’s work more times than you care to remember.
Crowley was born into a moderately wealthy English family. Though he was initially raised in a strict religious household, his home life became more chaotic when his father died while he was still at a young age, requiring a young Crowley to be raised alone by his mother. He received a sizable inheritance upon reaching adulthood, bestowing him the financial freedom necessary to devote his life to religious pursuits.
Crowley’s biggest contribution to the occult is that he wrote a religious text in 1904 titled The Book of the Law. He claims to have written this book under the guidance of a spiritual entity named Aiwass. He claims not to have written the book per se, but rather served as a medium through which Aiwass could communicate with humanity. The Book of the Law serves as the central religious text not only for his religion, but for many modern-day Illuminati as well. Its famous phrase “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law,” serves as the guiding dictum for his followers. He believes that the writing of The Book of the Law marked the beginning of a new spiritual age for humanity which he called the “Æon of Horus.”
Crowley was active in occult circles as well, and frequently took on leadership roles in occult societies. He originally found a home in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Freemasonry, but went on to found the societies Argenteum Astrum (A∴A∴) and Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). Both the A∴A∴ and O.T.O. serve to promote Crowley’s denomination of occultism which he called “Thelema” (with the followers being called “Thelemites.”). For a crude analogy, one could say that the A∴A∴ and O.T.O. are to Thelema as the Lutheran and Methodist churches are to Protestantism. For a further analogy, one could say that Thelema is to occultism as Protestantism is to Christianity.
Crowley’s other major contribution to the occult is that he popularized the practice of “sex magick” (note that he spelled magick with a “k” at the end to differentiate it from stage magic). Sex magick is the belief that one can engage in acts of ritualized sexual intercourse to achieve altered state of consciousness that result in spiritual enlightenment.
Like I said, this is only a brief introduction to Crowley’s work. I did not begin to cover the level of influence he has had on modern-day occultism, as it seems all manifestations of this religion inevitably lead back to Crowley in some capacity. The other aspect of Crowley I did not cover is his controversial nature. Crowley was and continues to be massively controversial, both within occult circles and among critics of the occult. Regardless, Crowley has cemented a level of influence within the occult that makes his work inextricably tied to this religion. If one is to understand the occult, they must understand Crowley.