Friendship in Doubt: Agnosticism and Magick in Aleister Crowley’s Circle

Infidel. Atheist. Rationalist. Agnostic. Freethinker: Not exactly terms associated with the occult. Yet, at the dawn of the twentieth century, the culture of disbelief briefly united magician Aleister Crowley, soldier J. F. C. Fuller, and poet Victor Neuburg as founders of Thelema, one of the most influential movements in Western esotericism. Rebelling against the restrictive religious and sexual dogmas of their upbringing, these three crusaded against Christianity’s grip on public and civic life. They believed the world, and our conduct, should be governed not by dogma, but by evidence and reason. Under Crowley’s charistmatic leadership, they also came to apply these principles to magic.

This talk uncovers the fingerprints of British secularism upon Thelema: from the “Scientific Illuminism” embraced by the A⸫A⸫, their successor to the fragmented Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; their journal The Equinox promoting “The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion”; to Crowley’s famous definition of magick as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”


Richard Kaczynski has been a lifelong scholar and international speaker on Western esotericism, with a focus on Aleister Crowley and his milieu. He is the author of Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley, The Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley, Forgotten Templars: The Untold Origins of Ordo Templi Orientis; editor of a critical edition of Crowley’s The Sword of Song and co-editor of the collection The Revival of Magick and Other Essays. This talk is based on his latest book, Friendship in Doubt: Aleister Crowley, J. F. C. Fuller Victor B. Neuburg, and British Agnosticism, released earlier this year by Oxford University Press.

Curated & Hosted by

Amy Hale is an Atlanta based writer, curator and critic, ethnographer and folklorist speaking and writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall. She is the author of Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor 2020) and is currently working on several Colquhoun related manuscripts. She is also the editor of Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses (Palgrave 2022). She has contributed gallery texts and essays for a number of institutions including Tate, Camden Arts Centre, Art UK, Arusha Galleries, Heavenly Records and she is a curator and host for the Last Tuesday Society lecture series.

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Sep 4th 2024 8:00 pm - 09:30 pm

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