“Varieties of Magical Experience” – a new article on Crowley, magic, and psychologisation

Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft (Penn Press)

The November issue of Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft ran an article by my colleague Marco Pasi, titled ”Varieties of Magical Experience: Aleister Crowley’s Views on Occult Practice”. It may safely be characterised as the most complete academic treatment of Crowley’s magical thought and practice that has so far been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It also ties in neatly with a discussion here at Heterodoxology and a couple of other blogs earlier this year (Tyromanteia and Invocatio), namely the question of the “psychologisation of magic”. A review is definitely in order.



On “Scientific Illuminism” and the Psychologisation of Magic

There is a post up at the tyromanteia blog, which offers a nice criticism of my article on Aleister Crowley’s negotiation of magic with science and psychology (“Magic Naturalized?”, published in Aries back in 2008). Tyromanteia draws on the work of Alex Owen (which I briefly reviewed last year) to place three 20th century magicians, Crowley, Israel Regardie, and Dion Fortune, within a broader “crisis of subjectivity” and a process of psychologisation. In this connection, the author finds opportunity to deal with my criticism of the “psychologisation thesis” on the survival of magic. I largely performed this criticism on the basis of Crowley, arguing that in this case, an attempted naturalisation of magic is more important than psychologisation. To this, Tyromanteia objects that Crowley largely anticipated the psychological and even psychotherapeutic interpretations which Regardie and Fortune later emphasised in their teachings. As I think this criticism points out an ambiguity in the original article, I will take this opportunity to make a brief response.