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"In the Shadow of the Beast: The Impact of Aleister Crowley on New Religious Movements and Contemporary Culture"


In late 19th century Great Britain, there was a revival of interest in the magic and occultism that emerged during the Renaissance. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a product of that revival, one who has had an ironically long afterlife, despite all of the controversy that has surrounded him. Crowley should also be remembered as a significant influence upon the founders of a variety of New Religious Movements (such as Gerald Gardner and L. Ron Hubbard). There was increased interest in his work and personality that emerged several decades after his death, as evidenced by the use of his image on the cover of a Beatles album, an increase in the sales of his books, and an emerging new status as a countercultural icon. The purpose of this study is to perform a history of the reception of Crowley’s ideas, focusing primarily on the self-promotion of a “beastly” persona, his subsequent and post-humous demonization, his rehabilitation in the 1960’s, his repeated demonization in the 1980’s, and the fairly recent (if gradual) acceptance of his importance to the scholarly study of New Religious Movements (NRMs).

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