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Mega Therion and his books in the Russian tradition

Fr. Marsyas

Russia, not without reason, has a reputation of the land of paradoxes. Despite of the fact that the considerable part of this country's population always took an interest in a secret, esoteric knowledge, magic and occultism, the name of the greatest magician of the XX century Aleister Crowley still remains known just to few people in this country.

It's especially odd, taking into consideration the fact that Crowley visited Russia twice (in 1898 and in 1913) and wrote here such famous works as Gnostic Mass, Hymn to Pan, The City of God, etc. As W. F. Ryan wrote in his remarkable article The Great Beast in Russia, Crowley took an interest in Russia and among his writing there were a lot of those in some way dealing with "Russian theme". People of Russian origin were also present in Crowley's inner circle. They were: a member of the order "Argenteum Astrum" George Raffalovich who financed The Equinox journal issued by Crowley and Marina Lavrova who was for a time the Scarlet Woman of the Great Beast.

Nevertheless "esoteric Russia" and Aleister Crowley failed to meet each other in his life. Why? Perhaps there are several answers to this question but it seems that Russian occultists, theosophists and masons of that time merely were not familiar with profound Western magic tradition represented by Aleister Crowley. It's enough to look through the files of pre-Revolutionary esoteric editions to see that the most popular things in Russia in those years were the experiences of spiritualists on calling spirits and awkward attempts of theosophists and anthroposophists to mix up orthodoxy and magic. Centuries-old infinite domination by Christian church in this country doomed Russian ezoteriki (followers of esoteric teachings) to ignorance and provinciality. The situation certainly didn't change even when orthodox-monarchic total-power gave place to Communist dictatorship.

For the first time the names of Aleister Crowley and Ordo Templi Orientis became known in Russia in 1985 from the book A Throne of Lucifer. Critical sketches on magic and occultism by Yeremey Parnov, science fiction writer. Of course in the conditions of that time's most severe censorship the book by Parnov stigmatised both magic and occultism and Crowley himself. However calling Crowley a "satanist" (a follower of Satanism) the author noticed that "one could not say that he had no perseverance and courage" and recognised that "it was he who established and developed the basis of modern occultism, its system hierarchy and magic practice".

Before the collapse of the Soviet regime there were published some other books in the USSR that had only the slightest reference to Crowley as "a cheat, known by his satanic cult sermon". (For example, Invisible empires. Secret societies of old and new time in the West by Efim Chernyak).

The Russian audience was only able to get some more or less detailed information on Crowley's life when very poor translations of the books The Occult by Colin Wilson and The Black Arts by Richard Cavendish were published in 1994. Wilson's funny stories and really stupid things concerning Crowley became a real treasure for Russian authors whence everyone could generously scoop out everything he took into his head even not giving himself trouble of making reference to the source.

It was "The Occult" by Wilson that became the basis for two "original" Russian books on Crowley published in 1999 and 2000. That was Aleister Crowley (series Great magicians and witches composed by Nikolay Nepomnyashchiy) and a novel Prisoner of Evil by Igor Minutko. These literary products are so poor that it is impossible to make any serious literary review of them. But it is worth however saying a few words about the novel by Minutko. Here Aleister Crowley appears as a literary character for the first time. On the instructions of British intelligence he fights against a "good magician" Georgy Gyurgiev, then helps Hitler, etc. All this is plentifully seasoned with sickening orthodox rhetoric, reasoning on Russia's being chosen by God, etc. And of course Crowley is an invariable character of anti-satanic orthodox books.

It should be noted as something funny that the first text by Aleister Crowley edited in Russian wasn't any of his classical writings on Magick but rather small excerpt from his article on astrology An Astrology. Archetypes of the Astral Universum according to Mythology and Western Tradition. In the introduction Crowley is called "famous magician" and that is all that a searching reader can learn of this figure.

Aleister Crowley's works on Magick came to Russia on 50th anniversary of his death - in 1997. At that time, the most famous opus of Crowley - The Book of the Law - translated by well-known Russian astrologer Yevgeny Kolesov was issued in a small "spiritual search journal" Potok ("The Stream"). Naturally according to the Russian tradition one couldn't help performing censorship even here. Therefore Kolesov blacked out poetry containing the description of Magick Rituals to be carried out before the Stele of the Revealing from Chapter III of The Book of the Law ("for it contains without any secret code magic formulae (...) appearing to be a trap for an ignoramus," - he explained) as well as poetry where there were - according to Kolesov - "a series of extremely pejorative expressions addressed to leading global religions". However complete text of The Book of the Law had already appeared by that time in the Internet and one could easily restore omitted fragments.

In the same year collected writings Aleister Crowley. The Book of the Law. Biography. Tarot Baphomet were issued in the city of Ufa by "Unicorn" publishing house. The collected writings mainly contained materials already known to the Russian audience: Crowley's biography from the book XX century's mystics by Elisabeth Wonderhill which had already been published before, recurrent reprint of a chapter on Crowley from Wilson's book, new translation of the Book of the Law (for that time without cuts and with an introduction), interpretation of Crowley's Thoth Tarot pack. The only one text in the collection, which appeared to be a really new one, was a strange material titled Victor Neuburg. Crowley in Berlin - 1938. The story was written from the first person (Victor Neuburg) and gave an account of a talk which allegedly had taken place between Crowley and Huxley. Its core phrase was: "You, naturally, don't know that two major ones in the O. T. O. personally made Adolf Hitler". Of course, Russian readers who took this story not as an excerpt from a novel fiction - as it really was - but as a sort of a documentary testimony, made from these words very far going conclusions. Actually, the only one link between the п.ф.п. and Hitler was that the latter threw Karl Germer - the second person in the п.ф.п., the head of its German branch - into concentration camp - but few people in Russia knew that. (Martha Kuntzel, a German Astrologer and O.T.O. member, claimed to be Hitler's Astrologer, but that has been disproven).

It's rather funny that on the 50th anniversary of Crowley's death even Russian newspapers went on publishing his texts. For instance, Liber Cheth and Crowley's drawing, which was a portrait of his wife Rose Kelly, were published in Limonka, a periodical of right-radical National Bolshevik party. The translation of this text made by a writer and Radio-101 DJ Georgy Osipov - who has been dealing with Crowley's texts for many years - is of sufficient quality. Another question is what was realised by right radicals in this extremely sophisticated text focused on sexual Magick and concerning highest degrees of initiation. Let us hope they at least appreciated its dignities as those of a piece of poetry.

It worth mentioning that in early 90's the National Bolsheviks and their main ideologist Alexander Dugin tried to bring Aleister Crowley's ideas to wide popular masses in Russia with enviable persistence. In this situation of course neither esoteric Crowley nor Crowley the Magician but Crowley the "Conservative Revolutionary", a fearless fighter against the mondialist regime was meant.

Everything started at the beginning of 1993 from the visit to Moscow of someone remarkable figure who called himself "frater Marcion", the head of the O. T. O. in France. Excerpts from his interview were shown in Alexander Dugin's TV-programme and than reprinted in Dugin's almanac Mily Angel ("The Sweet Angel") #2 and the book The way to Apocalypses. Knocking to the Golden Gate (the first edition - 1997) by Yury Vorobyevsky, Dugin's associate at that time. Having introduced himself as the head of the French branch of the O. T. O. "frater Marcion" went into verbose reasoning on close connection between Nazism and secret societies, alleged that everything "what was said about what had been happening in Nazi concentration camps was a tremendous overestimation" and at last significantly promised to the audience that "they would see the outcomes of my visit to Russia by themselves in the nearest future". He was absolutely right anyway in his last allegation.

But first of all some information is to be delivered: "frater Marcion's" real name is Christian Bouchet. In his native land he is mainly known not by his investigations on Magick but by his activities in a neo-Nazi group Nouvelle Resistance (New Resistance), indefatigable struggle against Zionism and intimate friendship with Islamic fundamentalists from Iran and Libya. He never headed any "branch of the O. T. O." in France. Actually, Bouchet had been a member of the Order for about ten years but he was expelled for breaking the Manual after having got just the first degree of initiation. It worth mentioning that he was expelled from the Order in 1992 i. e. still before his visit to Russia.

It's difficult to say either the French rogue deceived Russian "conservative revolutionaries", who gave him opportunity to speak on behalf of the O. T. O. in their native media, or the latter themselves participated in the fraud.

However, one really shouldn't suppose that the "conservative revolutionaries" are too scrupulous. For instance, they incorporated excerpts from the anti-freemason feature movie "Occult forces" (1943) by French fascist Bernard Fey into their 1995 TV-program "Mysteries of the century" covering inter alia the O. T. O. and Crowley. When the program was demonstrated a voice beyond the scene alleged this "sequence had been taken in the Lodge of the Scotch ritual". The simple calculation was based exclusively on complete ignorance of the Russian audience that didn't see the movie and therefore took actors as real freemasons.

It's funny that in the same years the "conservative revolutionaries" even tried to use the name of Crowley in their 1995 election campaign to the Russian parliament. At the arranged for young people pre-election concerts they recited excerpts from The Book of the Law mixing them up with singing Soviet patriotic songs. And actors using puppets performed episodes from the sexual Magick of the Golden Dawn. But sexual Magick of the puppets didn't work and the leader of the conservative revolutionaries Alexander Dugin's election campaign collapsed.

It looks like after that our "conservative revolutionaries" became disappointed in Crowley and passionately went on having friendship with Russian old-believers. It apparently influenced their publications of the previously made translations of the Great Beast's works on Magick as well. In the third issue of the almanac Mily Angel (1998) The Book of the Law was published with censorial omits once again. As it was said in the annotation there were "omitted blasphemies which to our view mustn't be published in a orthodox country".

In the same year the translation of The Book of the Law by Yevgeny Kolesov was reprinted: already as a separate book and with censorial omits once again. It also included full texts of The Book of Lies and of the novel Moonchild.

The main shortcoming of the edition was practically complete absence of the necessary comments. As the result not only subtle humor of the novel Moonchild but even the sense of some passages of these writings were lost.

A much better edition was published in the same year - Magick: Theory & Practice by Aleister Crowley in two volumes (Lokid-Myth publishing house). Even though the quality of the translation might have been better and the comments were not sufficiently detailed, nevertheless it was the first time Russian Thelemites got the opus which could help one to make a more or less adequate notion of the Thelemic Magick.

At last in 2000 Janus Books publishing house edited Eight Lectures on the Yoga by Crowley. Some excerpts from Liber IV concerning the technique of the Yoga were given in the appendix to the book. However, the edition itself didn't contain any reference to the original source. This publication is remarkable in that it contained a translation of the preface written by the head of the O. T. O. - Hymenaeus Beta Frater Superior. Of course, according to the Russian tradition neither Hymenaeus Beta himself, nor the O. T. O., which by the way owns the Crowley copyright, were informed of the project.

Russian publication of Crowley's main writings initiated the tradition of the Thelemic Magick in Russia. The first member of the O. T. O. appeared in Russia some years ago. In 1998 Russian Thelemites edited under the supervision of the Order a new, laboriously adjusted translation of The Book of the Law which was made with the help of the O. T. O. leaders. Some other translations of Crowley's writings were also prepared for edition.

In Spring 2000 the Supreme Council of the Order issued the Charter for foundation of the first Russian branch of the O. T. O. - Pan's Asylum Camp. The members of the Order who recently visited Russia repeatedly said the Magick of Thelema would get a lot of passionate followers in this country. There are reasons to consider the forecast will prove to be correct in the nearest future.