Saturday, November 8, 2008

Featured Pipe Smoker: Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)

What can I say about Mr. Crowley? If you know of him, it would be hard for me to say anything that you don't already know. If you don't know of him, there's more to say than I can write here.

Born Edward Alexander Crowley, his family were members of a conservative evangelical Christian sect called the Plymouth Brethren. His father had become quite wealthy in the brewery business, and had already retired when Aleister was born. During his retirement, his father dedicated himself to preaching. As sometimes happens in even the best of families, he rebelled against his family's strict Christian beliefs and went in other directions.

Crowley is probably best known these days as an outspoken occultist, and perhaps his most famous statement was, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." Say what you want about him, but I don't think anyone can argue that he didn't practice what he preached.

Crowley was also a master chess player, a mountain climber, poet, writer, painter, astrologer, drug experimenter (and addict) and a philosophical commenter. He was also sometimes accused of racism and mysogyny. During his time he was called "the wickedest man in the world" and liked to refer to himself as "the Great Beast 666," among other things.

He became involved in occult matters as a young adult with the Golden Dawn, but as was his way, he eventually broke from them and founded his own occult philosophy, known today as Thelemic Mysticism. He practiced many forms of "magick," involving meditation as well as sex and drugs (rock and roll having not yet been invented).

As for his pipe smoking, I have no way to verify it, but I have read on more than one occasion that Crowley liked to smoke straight Perique flavored with rum. The flavoring of tobacco with rum is an old tradition and is not especially remarkable. However, smoking straight Perique may be described to the non-pipe smoker as eating a meal of straight jalapeƱo peppers and nothing else. Some people can do it, but not many would enjoy it. A thorough description of Perique would require me to write a whole new post, but for now I'll just say that it is created by aging the leaves under pressure and allowing them to ferment in their own juices for a length of time. This creates a very strongly flavored and pungent tobacco. It is normally used as a "spice" tobacco, that is, it is added to blends in small amounts for flavor, the way you might add salt or spices to food.

Crowley, having squandered his inheritance throughout his life, died penniless and addicted to opium of a respiratory infection in 1947.


  1. Do the two pics correspond to the same man?
    Unbelievable :-)

  2. Yes. And if you ever see some other pictures of him (sans pipe) when he was young and in his real prime, you may be even more amazed.

  3. more crowley with pipe pictures can be seen here: