Crowley’s work oscillates between treating magical entities as objective, independent beings and as symbolic or psychological constructs. This duality can be seen as part of a larger trend in esoteric thought, where practitioners navigate between a more traditional, literal interpretation of spiritual entities and a modern, psychological understanding.
On one hand, Crowley often speaks of entities such as gods, angels, and demons as if they have an independent existence. For instance, in his work on Goetic magic, he treats the summoning of demons as a literal interaction with distinct spiritual beings. This approach aligns with a more traditional view found in many esoteric and religious systems, where spiritual entities are considered real and capable of interacting with humans.
On the other hand, Crowley’s writings also reflect a psychological interpretation of these entities, influenced by contemporary developments in psychology, particularly the work of Freud and Jung. In this view, entities encountered in magical practices are understood as manifestations of the practitioner’s subconscious mind, symbolic representations of internal psychological states or processes. This perspective is evident in some of his later writings, where he interprets magical experiences and entities as aspects of the individual’s psyche.
This inconsistency is not just Crowley’s personal idiosyncrasy but is indicative of a broader tension within modern Western esotericism. This tension arises from the attempt to integrate traditional esoteric practices and concepts with modern psychological understanding. It reflects a transitional phase in the history of esoteric thought, where the pre-modern worldview increasingly intersected with modern scientific and psychological paradigms.
In academic discourse, scholars such as Wouter J. Hanegraaff and Marco Pasi have explored these dynamics in the context of Western esotericism. Their work examines how figures like Crowley negotiate these two perspectives and how this negotiation reflects broader cultural and intellectual shifts.
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Published on December 23, 2023