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The Tonbridge schoolboy who became a magical cult leader and ‘the wickedest man in the world’

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Original article from Kent Live

Aleister Crowley, also known as The Beast 666, Perabduro, Ankh-f-n-khonsu, and "the wickedest man in the world", is arguably one of the oddest individuals in human history.

He was the father of modern occultism through the founding of a bizarre sex cult, a skilled mountaineer – attempting to scale K2 in the Himalayas before anyone else, and his path even crossed with L. Ron Hubbard – the founder of Scientology.

He also went to school in Kent.

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For those not familiar with the occult, it's actually quite a complex set of different religions, but the shared common ground of many of these religions is that they generally reject the ideas of mainstream organised religion.

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Crowley's religion, called Thelema, is itself quite an interesting one, emphasising that everyone is individual, people should act in their own interests by their own will, and emphasises free love – with Crowley himself having been bisexual.

Though these principles might sound fairly understandable on the surface, Crowley's belief system ran quite a lot deeper, linking sexuality and magic together in a complex web of quite strange and hard-to-comprehend beliefs.

Like modern reinterpretations of ideas like Wicca (witchcraft) or Satanism, Thelema still exists in a much less controversial form, but far from this, Crowley was defined by controversy, transgression and odd rituals.

Crowley himself was born in Warwickshire in 1875, enduring a quite turbulent childhood littered with family disfunction and bad behaviour, bouncing around a number of boarding schools across the UK.

It was this childhood that would land Crowley at Tonbridge School, one of the UK's best known private boarding schools that still exists to this day.

Tonbridge School is still one of the UK's most prestigious boarding schools

Records of his early life are hard to nail down definitively, but biographer Gary Lachman gives a brief summary of Crowley's time in Kent in his 2014 book, 'Magick, Rock and Roll and the Wickedest Man in the World.'

Having been removed from a school in Worcestershire for being so unpopular with other pupils, Lachman writes: "At the public school in Kent, Tonbridge, things were not much better…

"He felt that he possessed a 'natural aristocracy' that made people fear him.

"This only fueled his pursuit of [the unforgivable] sin even more, and he added another notch to his belt when he caught gonorrhoea from a Glasgow prostitute.

"Crowley was fast becoming a… 'rebel without a pause'."

He didn't last long at Tonbridge, leaving after only a few terms to live in Eastbourne.

It was at this point in the early 1890s, whilst he lived in Kent and Sussex, that Crowley would start to become disgusted by organised religion, which would go on to form the backbone of his beliefs.

By 1896, a 21-year old Crowley was a student at Cambridge, and had received a sum of £40,000 in family inheritance, which would have made him a millionaire in modern money.

Crowley was an eccentric man to say the least

Being a quite odd person, and with so much money at such a young age, Crowley joined an organisation called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – a forerunner to modern witchcraft and satanism.

Whilst a member, he embarked on a number of long trips abroad from the UK, going to Mexico, India Egypt, China and Algeria between 1898 and 1911, studying Hinduism and Buddhism as he travelled, developing his own bizarre faith as he travelled.

From this point, Crowley's life becomes even more strange – he wrote articles for Vanity Fair, moved to the USA during the First World War and wrote pro-German propaganda, and continued writing a large amount of religious texts explaining the complicated system of magic he believed the world to operate around.

Then, Crowley moved to Sicily, building the Abbey of Thelema on the Italian island – and this would be where his infamy would hit it's peak.

The cult he formed on this island fuelled his dependence on heroin and cocaine whilst they carrying out rituals that would get Crowley's beliefs genuine mainstream attention.

These rituals often involved sex and violence, as was commonplace for Crowley's lifestyle.

However, these practices in Sicily eventually resulting in the death of one of Crowley's followers, a young man called Raoul Loveday.

According to Loveday's wife, Crowley and his cult forced the man through a true ordeal.

She alleged he had been made to drink the blood of a sacrificed cat and that Crowley forced the pair cut themselves with razors, but it was the lack of clean water that eventually killed Loveday, as he contracted a liver infection from a polluted stream.

News of this spread quickly.

Crowley in around 1935, over a decade after the incident in Sicily.

Back home in the UK, satirical magazine John Bull called Crowley the "wickedest man in the world" and a "man we'd like to hang," these stories being republished across Europe and North America.

Crowley was forced out of Italy by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in 1923, spending the rest of the 1920s in and around Europe as his money began to run out.

By the 1930s, Crowley was living in Berlin, and following the rise of the Nazis, he had his second run-in with a fascist leader, as Hitler banned his occult practices and imprisoned many of Crowley's magic-practicing colleagues.

For this, Crowley – who was once optimistic about Hitler adopting his own religion of Thelema – called the German dictator a 'black magician'.

As the Second World War began, Crowley found himself back in England, but his health was failing.

His chronic asthma went untreated, due to his medication being made in Germany, increasing his dependency on heroin and cocaine.

Though he spent the war associating with Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, and children's writer Roald Dahl, he would not live much beyond the fall of Nazi Germany.

In late 1947, Crowley died of chronic bronchitis, aged 72, in Hastings, just a few miles from the Kent border.

Though not a Kent-born man, nor really one made here, Crowley's formative period of his late teenage years was spent in the south east.

It makes you think – had he fitted in a little better at Tonbridge School in his brief few months in Kent, perhaps The Beast 666, the world's "wickedest" man, and the forefather of modern Satanism wouldn't have been who he was.

Original Article