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Places: Crowley’s Berlin
17-02-2020, 07:37 AM
Post: #1
Places: Crowley’s Berlin
The Beast in Berlin is a recently published book by Tobias Churton (previewed earlier this year), which examines Aleister Crowley‘s time in the German capital which began at Easter 1930 and continued through much of the fraught twilight of the Weimar Republic. I was curious to discover the places where Crowley dwelled in my adoptive city, equally curious to know how they look today. Yesterday I took advantage of one of those fine autumn days which reminds you that fine autumn days are a scarce and ever dwindling resource. It just happened to be the Great Beast’s birthday, as well, so armed with Churton’s book I set off on a roughly chronological tour of Crowley’s Berlin.

The name Aleister Crowley recurs frequently on Strange Flowers, although most often in the company of others. My fascination for the man himself is discernible yet finite. Being preoccupied with the outer limits of individual experience I find Crowley’s gospel of ecstatic self-actualisation intriguing, but as a personality he could be utterly repellent, with frequent flashes of cruelty and treachery. Churton, who has previously published a biography of Crowley, is clearly a sympathetic chronicler. The Beast in Berlin is a substantial book considering Crowley only spent two years, on and off, in Berlin. There is a wealth – a surfeit, perhaps – of background material on German occultism, Berlin in the Weimar era and the Great Beast himself, such that more than 100 pages have gone by before we really find out what Crowley got up to in the city. However it was never entirely apparent to me why Crowley was there. While Weimar Berlin was a vital hub for artists, and Crowley had been dabbling in painting for over a decade, it was, as Churton points out, largely immune to the kind of dark mysticism in which Crowley customarily traded.
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