by Dr. Richard Spence
“Crowley has been the subject of several biographies, but none that investigate his alleged connection to British Intelligence. “That notion was dismissed by most biographers as idle boasting,” said Richard Spence, professor and chair of the University of Idaho’s Department of History. His recently published book, “Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult,” reveals new facets of Crowley’s life and raises new questions about his character.
The book began as an article Spence wrote for the International Journal for Intelligence and Counter Intelligence in 2000. Following its publication, history buffs and occult aficionados from around the world began contacting Spence with tidbits of information and leads. Referencing documents in British, American, French and Italian archives, Spence discovered that Crowley was connected to the sinking of the Lusitania, a British luxury liner that was torpedoed off of Ireland, killing 1,198 of the people aboard; the sinking turned public opinion in many countries against Germany in World War I.
Crowley also helped thwart Irish and Indian nationalist conspiracies, connived with the Communist International and played a murky role in the 1941 flight of Rudolf Hess. It is difficult to discern where Crowley the man and Crowley the public persona overlap. Spence is intrigued by Crowley’s use of the occult as cover and support for other activities. “He was such a disreputable and even evil character in the public mind that arguably no responsible intelligence official would think of employing him,” said Spence.
“But the very fact that he seemed such an improbable spy was perhaps the best recommendation for using him.” Spence, whose dogged approach to historical research has earned him a reputation as “a frustrated detective,” began his study by securing documents from the now defunct U.S. Army Military Intelligence Division. The file revealed an American investigation into Crowley’s activities in 1918, which led to the discovery that he was an employee of the British government.
Later in his life, Crowley claimed that he came to the U.S. as a British undercover agent with a mission to infiltrate and undermine the German propaganda effort. “He did undermine that effort,” said Spence. “His writing was an over-the-top parody of saber-rattling German militarism.” He actively encouraged German aggressiveness, such as the attack on the Lusitania, with the ultimate aim of bringing America into the war. In doing so, “Crowley followed precisely the wishes of Admiral Hall, chief of British Naval Intelligence,” said Spence.
“Crowley was an adept amateur psychologist, had an uncanny ability to influence people and probably utilized hypnotic suggestion in his undercover work,” Spence added. “The other thing he made good use of was drugs. In New York, he carried out very detailed studies on the effects of mescaline (peyote). He would invite various friends over for dinner, fix them curry and dose the food with mescaline. Then he observed and took notes on their behavior.” Mescaline, Spence noted, was later used by intelligence agencies for experiments in behavior modification and mind control.
Measuring the degree to which his occultism was a calculated cover “gets tricky,” said Spence. “From my perspective, it ultimately isn’t all that important whether he was sincere or a grand faker. He was certainly a person who could seem one thing while actually being something quite the opposite.” Though extremely unconventional in his behavior, “when push came to shove, Crowley had a visceral loyalty to England,” said Spence. “Because he did things that could not be publicly discussed, he could never really defend himself against these charges, though he did make attempts to redeem his reputation.”
BLACKMAIL UBER ALLES
the Occult War / by Michael Howard
“It is surprising the number of practitioners of the magical arts and witchcraft who were involved in military and intelligence work during the Second World War. Perhaps the best known ‘occult spy’ operating in the Second World War, and in fact long before, and whose intelligence career as been well documented, is Aleister Crowley. Author Dr Richard B. Spence believes that Crowley began his journey to being a secret agent when he took an oath of allegiance to the British Crown.
This was at the Malvern College boarding school in 1891 when he joined the cadet corps of the local Worcestershire Royal Artillery Volunteers. Later in life Crowley was to say that despite his problems and issues with the British establishment he had always felt that he was bound to that oath. In fact it had strengthened his link with England (Spence 2008:17). It is possible he meant on a magical and psychic level as well as the physical and patriotic one.
As a young man, through an introduction by his aunt who was a member, Crowley joined the Primrose League. This was a semi-secret, quasi-Masonic, right-wing group within the Conservative Party whose aim was to protect it from its political enemies. Dr Spence suggests that Crowley’s Jacobite sympathies in support of the return of the Stuart dynasty to the British throne to replace the Hanoverian usurpers, could have been used by the League to persuade Crowley to spy on potential enemies of the Crown. This however would suggest that his Jacobite inclinations were not genuine or a passing teenage phase.
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, Conservative politician, was Prime Minister three times during the reigns of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII
Crowley was lucky enough to come under the patronage of the Marquess of Salisbury, the Grand Master of the League. It has been suggested that Salisbury helped Crowley to enter Cambridge University and was grooming his young protégé for a lifelong career in the Diplomatic Service, which might well have involved spying for his country. However Crowley had other ideas, although it was at Cambridge that he met the future artist Gerald Kelly and later married his sister Rose. Forty years or so later both men were to serve in the wartime British Secret Service (Ibid: 18-19).
In the First World War Crowley was living in New York and he was accosted by a stranger on an omnibus. During their conversation about the war in Europe the man handed Crowley a business card. Printed on it were the addresses of two pro-German magazines and subsequently Crowley wrote anti-British propaganda for these publications. Naturally the British government took a dim view of this anti-patriotic, traitorous act.
“Crowley’s 1937 idea of the commercial utilization of the Swastika on porcelain cups and his suggestion for Thelema “as the base for the Nazi new order” [diary dated May 1936]”
They labelled him a traitor and the police raided his magical temple in London and closed it down. Crowley always protested his innocence. In fact he said he had been working for British Intelligence and written the satirical articles at their request. The aim was to ridicule the pro-German movement in America and discredit the magazines. This has never confirmed by the British government, but it has also not been denied.
While Crowley was in the States he also posed as an Irishman supporting home rule or selfgovernment for Ireland, which was still part of the British Empire. He managed to make contact with several Irish-American republicans who shared his alleged views. They seemed to have supplied him with the funds to stay in the country, although they eventually got fed up with his financial demands. It is quite possible that Crowley was spying on the Irish republican and was sending the information he gleaned back to his handler or case officer in London.
In the early 1920s Crowley and his little band of followers were expelled from Italy on the direct orders of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The official version was that were kicked out because of their ‘obscene and perverted’ sexual activities at the so-called ‘Abbey of Thelema at Cefalu on Sicily. The real reason was that the Italian police had a secret dossier on Crowley and believed he was British spy (Spence 2008:188).
Rumours circulating in government circles and the media in both Germany and France claimed that Crowley had contacts with ‘the intelligence services of foreign countries’. In 1929 he was thrown out of Paris by the French government because they were convinced he was a spy. Dr Spence believes that at the time Crowley’s British Intelligence case officer and contact was Gerald Yorke, who had met in 1927. Yorke was a freelance journalist and also worked for the international Reuters press agency. (Ibid: 208-209). That could have been a good cover for intelligence activities and many journalists are still recruited for that purpose today.
In the 1930s there is the first solid evidence that Crowley was recruited by MI6 or the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service). This was to spy on German occultists with political links to the emerging National Socialist (‘Nazi’) Party and Marxists revolutionaries. One of Crowley’s possible targets was Albert Karl Theodor Reuss, the founder of the magical group the Ordo Templi Orientis or Order of the Eastern Templars (OTO), into which Crowley had been initiated in 1912 and made head of the British branch.
Reuss was reputed to have worked before the First World War as an undercover agent for the Prussian secret police. While he was living in London in 1885, Reuss joined the Revolutionary Socialist League run by the founder of the arts and crafts movement William Morris and Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor. When they eventually discovered he was spying on them Reuss was expelled.
Another prominent member of the OTO in Germany, and controversially was later to become its Grand Master based in the USA, was Karl Johannes Germer. He had been awarded the much coveted Iron Cross medal in the First World War for his intelligence work, although unfortunately he was imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis. It has been claimed that this was because of his association with Crowley and his attempts to recruit German members for the OTO.
When he was living in Berlin in the 1930s Crowley spied on secret societies and members of the Nazi Party known to be interested in occultism and reviving the old Germanic pagan religions. He shared a flat with Gerald Hamilton, a pro-communist English journalist, who was known to British Intelligence as a spy working for the Germans. Crowley reported back to London on Hamilton’s activities and no doubt he was doing the same to his German masters. It may have been Crowley’s involvement with the SIS that led Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi’s SS Order, to publicly claim that the British Secret Service was run by Rosicrucians who used their occult powers to spy on their enemies.
In 1933, the year that the Nazis took power in Germany, Crowley met an eccentric Welsh aristocrat Viscount Tregedar (Evan Morgan 1893-1949). His haunted country house was near Newport in South Wales and was the site of famous wild parties to which he invited a wide mix of social types including Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells. The estate included a private zoo featuring a kangaroo, honey bear, baboon and a macaw parrot.
“Surrounded by a menagerie of pets (including a bear named ‘Alice’, an anteater, and a boxing kangaroo named ‘Somerset’) Evan, often with his ‘familiar’, a macaw named ‘Blue Boy’ perched on one shoulder, entertained on a lavish scale.”
Queen Mary, the present queen’s grandmother, called Lord Tredegar “My favourite bohemian”. One of his more unusual and notorious house guests was, perhaps significantly in the light of later dramatic events, the Nazi deputy-fuehrer Rudolf Hess. In fact Hess had a family connection with the Tregedar estate as his first wife was buried nearby. In 2012 the house will be taken over by the National Trust and opened to the public.
Lord Tregedar had also visited the German home of Ernst Rohm, the head of the SA, and they shared a male lover. Rohm, who consulted astrologers about his homosexuality, was assassinated on the orders of Adolf Hitler during the purge of the Nazi Party known as ‘the night of the long knives’ in June 1943 when the SA was disbanded. This was partly because Hitler feared the organisation and Rohm’s growing power, but also because many of its members shared their leader’s sexual preferences and the other top Nazis were homophobes.
Crowley’s friendship with Lord Tregedar was largely based on the fact that the two men shared an interest in the occult and possibly because they were both bisexuals. The Great Beast gave his lordship the ultimate accolade of calling him ‘the [magical] Adept of Adepts’.
“The last known surviving photograph of Lord Tredegar Evan Morgan, taken in 1949″
Although Tregedar had converted as a young man to Catholicism, and even served as a chamberlain to two popes and was a Knight of Malta, he had still continued his occult activities. While living in Rome it is said that he did a necromantic rite in the English Protestant cemetery in the city to conjure up the spirit of the eighteenth-century romantic poet Shelly. He also had contact with a cunning man in North Wales.
Tregedar seems to have been fond of graveyards for rituals as he allegedly used the one at the parish church of Ovingdean in Sussex. This was conveniently near his mother’s house. In one of these churchyard rituals he was joined by a group of occultists who included a male cousin of Sir Winston Churchill. Lord Tregedar belonged to an occult secret society in London called The Black Circle, which had the traditional thirteen members of a witch coven.
In it the aristocrat was known as the ‘Black Monk’ and was even painted in the hooded black robe all the members wore for their ceremonies. He owned several saints relics, reflecting his Catholic background, had the skeleton of a local Welsh witch set up in his hallway to greet his guests and confided in Crowley that his family was descended from King Arthur. The legendary city of Camelot was supposed to have been at the nearby Roman site of Caerleon. Crowley even described his lordship as “the rightful heir to Excalibur”.
When Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, despite his occult beliefs or possibly because of his unusual connection with Churchill, Lord Tregedar was recruited by MI5 (the internal British Security Service). It is even possible he belonged to it before the war and was passing information on his Nazi contacts to Five. He was appointed as the head of the MI6 section known as the Radio Security Service (RSS). Among his other duties in that position he was in charge of the carrier pigeons used to communicate with secret agents in Nazi occupied Europe.
“While Tregedar was with MI8 he hatched a plan to drop hundreds of spy pigeons from planes, but they just ended up getting sucked into their engines.”
Unfortunately his secret career ended abruptly. One day Tregedar gave an unauthorised office tour to a pretty young woman who did not have security clearance. He was arrested and charged with treason, which was very serious offence in wartime. It could mean a lengthy time in the Tower of London or even execution by hanging or a firing squad.
However to the surprise of his colleagues the aristocrat was released and it was whispered that MI5 had intervened in the case. Perhaps he knew where too many of the bodies were buried! Immediately Tregedar contacted his old friend Crowley and tried to persuade him to put a curse on the arresting officer (Spence 2008: 225 and personal communications from Paul Busby 13.10. 2009).
Another link between Crowley and the intelligence services was his friendship with the homosexual M.P. Tom Driberg. He had been a society gossip columnist on the Daily Express and paradoxically had joined the British Communist party in 1920. With contacts in the different worlds of politics, high society and the gay scene he was an ideal informant for MI5, although it was also rumoured he was also a KGB agent. Driberg was recruited in 1937 by the assistant-director of Five responsible for counter-espionage, Maxwell Knight. He was in charge of planting ‘moles’ in fascist and communist organisations and other groups regarded by the government as a threat to national security. After 1933 Knight turned his attention to pro-German organisations operating in Britain.
After Tom Driberg was brought in he introduced Crowley to the writer of adventure, historical and ‘black magic’ thrillers Dennis Wheatley, whose wife worked as the transport administration officer for MI5. Wheatley was also personally recruited by Churchill to be part of a top-secret unit in the Cabinet Office planning for total warfare (including the use of poison gas and biological weapons), the local defence of Britain if the Germans invaded and organising a resistance movement if they succeeded. Crowley is suppose to have helped Wheatley with research for his occult novels and arranged introductions to other magicians. There is even a story that, while Wheatley denied ever attending any magical ceremony, he and Maxwell Knight might have become Crowley’s students.
Coincidentally Dennis Wheatley was also a close friend of the occult writer Joan Grant who wrote bestselling novels about reincarnation, such as The Winged Pharoah based on her own life in Ancient Egyptian. Grant practised Rosicrucian-type sex magic rites with her psychiatrist husband. She was also a member of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry and when this writer joined a Co-Masonic Egyptian themed lodge in the 1970s he was told it was the one Joan Grant had been in many years before. Several of the members remembered her with fondness. As a child in 1914 she had sailed with her parents on the ill-fated SS Lusitania. Crowley was on the same voyage and when in New York had visited Grant’s family home because he knew her father (Spence 2008: 226).
The incestuous connection between Maxwell Knight, Dennis Wheatley, Tom Driberg and Crowley is that all four men were interested in the occult. Knight was also obsessed with animals and kept grass snakes in the bath of his ground floor Chelsea flat, an Amazonian parrot in the kitchen and a Himalayan monkey in the garden. After the war, when he had retired from MI5, Knight started a successful second career. He recorded natural history programmes for BBC radio’s Children’s Hour under the nickname of ‘Uncle Mac’.
Maxwell Knight was also bisexual and a friend of Lord Tregedar who was mentioned earlier and also had a private menagerie. When Knight’s wife died in 1936, from a suspected accidental overdose of painkillers prescribed for her bad back, rumours circulated that she had committed suicide after participating in a magical ritual with Crowley. It was even suggested that she was murdered by her husband for her money and the Great Beast had advised Knight how to do it using his knowledge of drugs (Spence 2008:226-227). Needless to say there is not a shred of evidence to support either of these stories.
When war broke out Crowley was eager to do his bit for king and country and continue his pre-war relationship with MI6. Both MI5 and the SIS approached and recruited occultists at the time because of their specialist knowledge and skills. On September 10th 1939, seven days after the war started, and after filling in an application form, Crowley was invited to an interview at the Admiralty in Whitehall. This was with Commander C.J. Lang of the Naval Intelligence Department (NID). Only the two men know what happened at this secret meeting, but it has been claimed that when Crowley died in 1946 among his papers was found a note from the NID acknowledging his ‘war efforts’.
Another possible clue to Crowley’s wartime involvement with intelligence agencies surfaced in a report sent by the MI6 officer, British traitor and Soviet mole Kim Philby to Moscow Control in 1942. Philby informed his Russian masters that MI6 were investigating a blackmailing racket linking Royal Air Force officers and members of British high society to drug smuggling, orgies (heterosexual and homosexual) and ‘black magic rites’. It was believed this racket was being run by operatives of the German secret service based in their embassy in neutral Dublin. Coincidentally Crowley’s Berlin contact Gerald Hamilton was interned by the British in 1939 as a potential security risk. It was said that the government was worried about his ‘suspicious communications’ with the Germany embassy in Dublin (Spence 2008:246).
“Kim Philby holds a press conference after being cleared of spying charges“
According to Kim Philby, who supplied documentary evidence to the KGB that is strangely missing from SIS files, the ‘notorious occultist Aleister Crowley’ was involved in these nefarious activities (Tsarev and West 1999: 316-318). Dr Richard Spence believes that what the SIS stumbled upon was in fact a clandestine MI5 operation run by Maxwell Knight, possibly aided by Crowley. MI5 and MI6 have always been rivals and often did not tell each other about ongoing operations.
It may have been part of the sophisticated counterespionage ‘double cross’ system created by Five to ‘turn’ the Nazi spy network in Britain (Ibid: 241). As both Crowley and oddly the Soviet ambassador are supposed to have been involved in organising the alleged sex orgies and Black Masses described by Philby, it is more likely that MI5 were behind it then the Germans. Intelligence services from all countries have always carried out ‘false flag’ operations and used the dark arts of blackmail and subversion to expose traitors and recruit foreign agents, politicians and dignitaries.
Aleister Crowley (left) playing Fernando Pessoa in Lisbon, 1930
The assistant-director of British Naval Intelligence during the Second World War was the eccentric, colourful and flamboyant Lt. Commander Ian Fleming R.N.. He was of course to become world famous in the 1950s as the creator of the fictional British spy James Bond 007, who had a licence to kill. In fact it is believed that Fleming based his character ‘M’. the head of the Secret Service in the books, on his friend and colleague Maxwell Knight of MI5. It was also no mystery why Bond held the rank of a naval commander. Fleming also shared Knight’s interest in the occult, especially astrology, divination and numerology, and he also knew Crowley. Hence we have a clandestine social and work related network of intelligence officers interested in occult and actual practitioners of the magical arts.
Commander Fleming was well known for his innovative schemes, although some preferred to call them “Ian’s crazy ideas”. These included planning to snatch a German ‘Enigma’ code machine by staging a fake plane crash in the English Channel, scuttling barges made of cement in the Danube to block the river to Nazi shipping, forging millions of Reichmarks to bankrupt the German economy and offering the French Navy the Isle of Wight as their sovereign territory for the duration of the war. He was a bit of a Boy’s Own hero and created his own private commando unit called 30 Assault, known in the NID as ‘the Red Indians’, who were involved in daring raids on the coast of Occupied Europe.
It may have been Fleming’s interest in astrology that led to his boss Admiral John Godfrey to recruit astrologers to cast the horoscopes of Hitler to see what he might be planning (or what the astrologers who worked for the Nazi were predicting and advising) and even those of our own Royal Navy admirals (recorded in a diary entry by MI5 chief Guy Liddell dated April 10th 1941 and quoted in Spence 2008). One of the astrologers who it is known was recruited by SOE and the NID was a Hungarian-Jewish novelist, journalist and film-maker called Louis de Wohl. He claimed that he had been given the honorary rank of a captain in the British Army by SOE complete with a uniform. Although the Ministry of Defence denied this after the war it was a known practice. The thriller writer Dennis Wheatley was given a temporary rank as a Wing-Commander in the RAF Reserve to cover his secret wartime work (Howe 1967 204-205 and 215).
It was believed by the British government that Hitler and some high ranking Nazis had an interest in such esoteric subjects as astrology, psychism, magic and the occult arts. In 1942 a secret psychiatric assessment was commissioned by British Intelligence that concluded that Hitler was suffering from what it called ‘religious delusions’ and believed he was divine. The fuehrer was also paranoid about the Jews and believed he was following a spiritual mission that in his twisted mind justified the policy of the Final Solution resulting in the Holocaust. The report compared his ranting and near hysterical speeches at the infamous nocturnal torch lit Nuremburg rallies as the work of a ‘shaman’ and he believed he was transmitting messages from ‘the spirits’ to his fanatical followers.
“In 1942, Crowley claimed to have invented the usage of a V-sign in February 1941 as a magical foil to the Nazis’ use of the Swastika. He maintained that he passed this to friends at the BBC, and to the British Naval Intelligence Division through his connections in MI5, eventually gaining the approval of Winston Churchill.”
In 1943 the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the wartime forerunner of the CIA, asked a well-known Harvard University psychologist to do a similar study. His report identified Hitler as someone suffering from a wide range of serious mental disorders. The doctor concluded quite correctly that if or when Germany faced defeat its leader’s messianic complex would mean he would take the ancient role of the ‘dying god’. This meant he would sacrifice himself for his people and land by committing suicide (The Times May 4th 2012).
Ian Fleming hatched an idea to exploit the known interest in the occult, divination and astrology by the German deputy-fuehrer Rudolf Hess and his pre-war connections with Britain. He conceived a daring plan to lure the top Nazi to England by pretending to resurrect a pre-war Anglo-German friendship organisation called The Link. Coincidentally this had been formed by a retired director the NID, Admiral Sir Barry Domville, and included among its leading members an occultist called General J.F. C. Fuller, an open admirer of Hitler and a disciple of Crowley. Domville was arrested and interned when the war began. This was because the government believed he was plotting a fascist coup supported by appeasers in the British social and political establishment who wanted peace with Germany.
“Through his student Rudolf Hess (right), Haushofer’s ideas may have influenced the development of Adolf Hitler’s expansionist strategies, although Haushofer denied direct influence on the Nazi regime.”
Ian Fleming’s cunning plan was to plant disinformation that would be picked up by the German High Command. The false intelligence would persuade them that despite its leading members being in prison The Link was still operating underground. In fact it still had secret supporters and friends in high place including aristocrats and royalty. They were plotting to overthrow the ‘warmonger’ Churchill and his wartime coalition government and negotiate a truce and peace treaty with Nazi Germany. The British and Germans could then unite their armies to turn east and jointly fight the ‘real enemy’, the communist Russians.
To achieve his aim Fleming hired astrologers to produce fake charts and predictions to convince Hess to travel to Britain and meet up with representatives of The Link. The deputyfuehrer was fed data based on genuine astrological calculations that suggested that May 10th 1941 was an auspicious day for his trip. Coincidently, Hess also had a confirmatory dream in which he was having an audience at Buckingham Palace with King George, who he already falsely believed hated Churchill and wanted peace with his German cousins. It has been suggested that Crowley was employed by the NID to use magical or psychic techniques to plant the dream in Hess’ mind while he slept (Spence 2008:247-248).
“With advice from his friend Aleister Crowley, Fleming used an agent posing as an astrologer to present Hess with a false astrological forecast that convinced Hess that parts of the British Government wanted to negotiate a peace with Germany. Hess stole a plane and flew to Britain, where he was promptly captured. Hitler was so outraged that he banned all unauthorized use of astrology or fortune telling in Nazi Germany (though occultists strongly loyal to the Nazis were recruited into the Gestapo instead of being arrested).”
When Hess carried out his disastrous ‘peace mission’ and landed by plane in Scotland he was immediately arrested by the Home Guard and handed over to the Army. He had chosen a Scottish landing site near the ancestral home of the Duke of Hamilton and he demanded to see the aristocrat. This was because he had been told that the duke was one of the secret members of the imaginary Link organisation and also a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Hess also said he wanted to be taken to London to see the king.
Hess told his amazed interrogators that occultists had influenced or hypnotised Churchill to take a negative attitude towards Germany. He also said that the German High Command believed that key British political figures had been ‘mesmerised by ‘evil forces’. Allegedly these same forces were trying to kill Hess because he was one of the few people who knew about their ‘secret psychic powers’. (The Daily Telegraph 7th April 2012). Naturally the British authorities concluded that the deputy-fuehrer was raving mad. In fact one exasperated Army officer involved in his interrogation said that Hess should be taken out and shot like a rabid dog.
Commander Ian Fleming was keen that Crowley should be allowed to interview Hess in captivity. This seems to have been suggested to Fleming in a letter from Crowley dated four days after the Nazi was captured. In it the Great Beast says:’ “If it is true that Herr Hess is much influenced by astrology an magick, my services might be useful to the [Naval Intelligence] department in case he should not be willing to do as you wish’ (Pearson 1966). Although SIS asserted that Crowley never met Hess, it has been claimed that MI5 did arrange an interview between the two men at one of their interrogation centres. This was allegedly at Latchmore House on Ham Common in London used by Five for questioning German prisoners-of-war and secret agents they wanted to turn. (Spence 2008:249).
The Nazi Party’s reaction to Hess’ ‘peace mission’ was to disown the deputy-fuehrer and his actions. It was claimed he was mentally deranged and had been falsely and disastrously influenced by astrologers and occultists. A report in The Times newspaper on May 14th 1941 however claimed that Hess had secretly been offering astrological advice to Hitler. A few months before his ill-fated trip to Scotland the deputy-fuehrer had allegedly convinced himself from astrological calculations that, despite recent German victories, Hitler was doomed. Therefore Hess saw it as his patriotic duty to try and make peace with the British government before Germany was defeated. Despite its unofficial interest, the Third Reich had always had an ambiguous official approach to occultism and secret societies. A few weeks after the failed mission an operation called ‘Aktion Hess’ was launched by the Gestapo. This included banning performances or lectures on the occult, astrology, telepathy, clairvoyance and Spiritualism and many of their publicly known practitioners were arrested and ended up in concentration camps (Howe 1967: 192-193).
Another occultist who was supposed to have been involved in or connected to the Hess affair was the late Cecil Hugh Williamson, the founder of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic at Castletown on the Isle of the Man that is now located in Boscastle in North Cornwall. Williamson had been recruited into MI6 in 1938 by a family friend Major Edward Maltby, who coincidentally was the brother-in-law of the famous occultist Dion Fortune. He was described by a Six officer who met him at Warsaw railway station in 1939 as a typical English gentleman wearing his Old Etonian tie. As a supposed secret agent his ‘distinct haberdashery’ made him stand out like a sore thumb among the Polish peasants coming off the train. (Smith 2010:376).
The charming double agent Guy Burgess in an Old Etonian tie.
The major was in charge of a section of SIS set up to deal with the unusual threat posed by esoteric and magical groups in Germany and occultists in the Nazi Party. Williamson agreed to work for Six as an undercover agent and before the war made several trips to Germany posing as a folklorist to collect information. Cecil told this writer that he believed the intelligence he collected on at least two thousands Nazi Party members interested or involved in the occult and astrology helped Ian Fleming’s NID operation to trap Rudolf Hess.
When the war started Cecil Williamson was seconded to a specialist unit of the Special Executive Operation (SOE) based at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. Churchill had ordered the formation of the SOE to work with resistance groups in Nazi-occupied Europe and organise and take part in subversion, sabotage and assassinations. Williamson worked initially with Edward Maltby, who was then a Lieutenant Colonel and assistant-director of the communications section of MI6, the Radio Security Service that Lord Tregedar worked for in London.
Williamson’s immediate boss was an ex-Daily Express journalist Sefton Delmer who ran the Psychological Warfare Executive (PWE) involved in ‘black’ propaganda. Delmer had also been involved with Ian Fleming in the Hess operation. Dr Spence refers to a long destroyed intelligence file on ‘The Use of Astrology in Propaganda’ and he suggests that Delmer was in charge of the astrological aspects of the affair (2008:251). Another possibility is that it was Sir Charles Hambro, the deputy-director of SOE who had commissioned Louis de Wohl to furnish it with material that could be used for ‘black’ propaganda. He also sent the Hungarian astrologer to America on a lecture tour predicting the downfall of Nazi Germany based on astrological predictions (Howe 1967: 210-213).
One of the tasks of the PWE was to run ‘black’ propaganda radio stations feeding false information to the German High Command and morale-sapping news to German U-boats patrolling the Atlantic. Williamson was given the job of controlling several static and mobile radio stations located across southern England, including the New Forest area. These had been secretly supplied by the American government and Williamson supervised the mobile ones operated from the back of army trucks. These were camouflaged and kept moving around so they were not a tempting target for the Luftwaffe.These radio units broadcast an entertaining mixture of American and British jazz and dance band music interspersed with ‘news’ describing the kinky sex activities and financial corruption of the Nazi hierarchy back home and fake astrological predictions and prophecies by the medieval French seer Nostradamus about a German defeat in the war (possibly supplied to SOE by Louis de Wohl).
One of Cecil Williamson’s most controversial claims relating to his wartime work was his involvement in an anti-Hitler propaganda exercise organised jointly by the SIS and MI5 called Operation Mistletoe, which may or may not included Crowley’s participation. This was supposed to have taken place in Ashdown Forest in Sussex and featured a fake magical ritual. Its aim was to convince those in the German High Command who believed in the occult that ceremonial magicians and witches in England were working against them. Allegedly Canadian troops were recruited to take part in the ‘ritual’ acting as ‘wizards’ and wearing improvised ‘robes’ made from sacking and decorated with symbols from the Key of Solomon. Doubt has been cast on the truth of Williamson’s account and partly because Canadian and not British troops were involved. However a radio transmitter with a tall tower codenamed ‘Aspidistra’ was provided by the US military and set up in Ashdown Forest. This was as part of the work Williamson was responsible for and a Canadian engineer battalion based locally was brought in to erect it.
According to an obituary of Cecil Williamson published in The Daily Telegraph newspaper when he died in 1999, he also carried out undercover operation with the SOE in occupied France. This may still have been part of his work with the Radio Security Service as one of its tasks was to make and supply small radio transmitters to SOE agents working with the French Resistance. Towards the end of the war Williamson and the RSS were part of Operation Fortitude. This was a complex and sophisticated plan to mislead the Germans that the expected Allied invasion of Europe would take place on the French coast at Pas de Calais rather then the real site of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Williamson’s job was to broadcast false messages about army manoeuvres in Essex preparing for the invasion, rather then the real ones on the south coast of England (Heselton 2012. Vol 2:412-413).
“Perhaps most controversial of all is the claim that in August 1940 the New Forest Coven engaged in a lengthy and complicated ritual to try and prevent Adolf Hitler’s hordes from invading the United Kingdom. And all (allegedly, at least…) with the secret consent of the British Government and its then-burgeoning Intelligence community.”
As well as those occultists working in military intelligence others were also doing magic against the Nazis, especially in the early days of the war when a German invasion was expected any day and Britain was unprepared. One famous example is the ritual at Lammas 1940 (or possible a series of rituals on the full moons from May Eve to Lammas) carried out by the New Forest Coven and vividly described by Gerald Gardner. He also claimed that the local hereditary witches in the coven had told him their ancestors did similar magical rituals to stop the Spanish Armada and Napoleon’s proposed invasion of England. (heselton 2012. Vol 1: 240-252) Incidentally Cecil Williamson had family connections to the New Forest and one of the RSS transmitters was based there in the war. He told this writer that at that period he had come across Gardner’s initiator ‘Dafo’ (Edith Woodford-Grimes) and also met other witches in the area who had nothing to do with the New Forest Coven.
The anti-Nazi activities of Dion Fortune and her Fraternity of the Inner Light during the war have been given the title ‘The Magical Battle of Britain’ (see Knight 1993). According to a letter from Geraldine Beskin, owner of the Atlantis occult bookshop in Museum Street, London, published in the paranormal magazine Fortean Times # 288 (May 2012) in her opinion Dion Fortune’s rituals to protect Britain from the Nazis were ironic. This was because her family, the Firth’s based in Sheffield, were the ‘world’s largest producers of arms and armaments’. Beskin said that in the nineteenth-century steel from the Firth foundry was used to manufacture all the guns supplied to the British government. It may well be ironic, but perhaps Dion Fortune’s magical rituals where just an extension on another level of the valuable services her family had provided for the British Empire in the past?
As mentioned earlier Dion Fortune had a link by marriage with Cecil Williamson’s MI6 recruiter Major Edward Maltby. Both he and another MI6 officer, Anthony Daws, belonged to a magical lodge led by Christine Hartley, one of Fortune’s students and at one time her heir apparent until they fell out, and Hartley’s magical partner Charles Richard Foster ‘Kim’ Seymour. Interestingly and perhaps highly coincidental, Colonel Seymour, an Irishman who had served in the Indian Army, taken part in ‘covert actions’ in Iraq during the First World War and worked as a Russian translator, was employed by the War Office to intercept and study enemy messages. Using his specialist knowledge his job description included investigating links between British and German occult groups. Later Seymour joined the SIS and during the war he became the head of the Dutch section of the SOE (Jeffrey 2010:544).
There were also attempts to curse Hitler and again Crowley was involved. In 1941 he wrote Thumbs-Up: A Pentagram –a Panticle to Win the War, which was privately published from his then home at 10 Hanover Square in a posh district of London’s West End and by the American branch of the OTO at the ‘Abbey of Thelema’ in California. It includes patriotic poems by Crowley, England, Stand Fast! and Hymn for the American People and a curse against Adolf Shicklegruber – Hitler’s real Austrian name. Also in 1941, the American writer, globetrotting adventurer and occultist William B. Seabrook was contacted by a ‘coven’ of amateur witches in Washington asking for instruction on how to do ‘doll magic’ against Hitler. Their representative Richard W. Tupper told Seabrook that ‘it would help pass the evenings’ and also perhaps encourage thousands of people to hex Herr Hitler. Seabrook was delighted with the idea as he had plenty of experience with witch poppets and wax images in pre-war France, London and New York. He also said interestingly: “After all it was Hitler who invented psychic warfare.”
So it would seem that there is a lot of evidence of occult activities in the Second World War involving secret agents, magicians and the Nazis. The links between occultists and the intelligence community were not confined to wartime. Behind the Profumo Affair in 1963, which nearly led to the fall of the Tory government, there was a strong occult element that was covered up. The scandal featured politicians, high society orgies, call girls, MI5 and Russian spies. At least two of the leading figures in the affair were practitioners of what the sensationalist press would call ‘black magic’. In recent times the CIA and the KGB have both employed clairvoyants, conducted scientific research into the use of psychic powers for espionage and warfare, and also carried out mind-control experiments. If the rumours and leaks are true, as Cecil Williamson said about old-style witchcraft, it still goes on today.”
“…Fielding, in addition to being a well-known attorney in the financial district of the City of London, was also a Freemason and a leading figure in the Society for Psychical Research. At the outbreak of war in 1914, he was given a reserve commission in the Royal Navy and joined the Press Bureau as propaganda liaison. It was to Fielding that Crowley appealed for a job after the war began, and it was in all likelihood Fielding who served as Crowley’s intelligence handler from at least 1910 onward. In fact, it is just possible that Fielding, who was eight years Crowley’s senior and an alumnus of Trinity College at Cambridge, recruited him directly from the university.
In the aftermath of the Rosicrucian Scandal and subsequent lawsuit from Mathers, Crowley was approached by Reuss, who claimed to be a friend of one of the founders of the Golden Dawn, W. W. Westcott, and claimed to hold just about every fringe and esoteric grade available to the occult minded Freemason. At first, Crowley was not that interested; even though he accepted the VIIth degree of the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis), he kept Reuss at a distance. Things changed however in the spring of 1912, after Crowley’s visits in Italy with Fielding. Suddenly a trip to Berlin was arranged, where, in June, Reuss conferred upon him the IX° and appointed him National Grand Master General X° for the O.T.O. in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
The new Secret Service Bureau had replaced the old War Office Intelligence Division in late 1909 and as the new organization took hold, and as assets and analysis shifted toward Germany, new priorities arose. One of these was the establishment of some kind of espionage network inside Germany. The old-boy network of Masonry and occult secret societies seemed like an excellent base with which to start. Theodore Reuss was well known to British intelligence, going as far back as the mid 1880s when he was spying on Karl Marx’s daughter for the Prussian secret service, and the reach of his Masonic compendium was irresistible. Among his followers at that time were Gerard Encausse (Papus) who had a certain amount of influence at the Russian court and Rudolph Steiner, spiritual advisor to no less than Helmut von Moltke, chief of staff of the Germany Army.
Crowley’s connection to Reuss raised his standing from a causal asset on the cultural front to a major player in the larger game. He spent the rest of 1912 reorganizing the various rites and structures of the O.T.O. to make it a better instrument for influence and information gathering. Crowley was also planning a cover story for his first big intelligence operation, contacting the Russian Masonic and occultist underground. How much use Crowley made of his new OTO contacts is uncertain. Crowley, in Confessions, goes out of his way to confuse even the basic chronology of his contact with Reuss, and he says very little at all about his Russian adventure. There may in fact be a compelling reason for that reticence. In 1911 as part of the reorganization of the intelligence services, Parliament passed the Official Secrets Act, which made it a crime for anyone involved in government service to say anything about their work without official approval. In the mid 1920s, when Crowley was dictating his Confessions, the OSA was very much in force and could have been used against him if he revealed too much in his so-called “autohagiography.” So the gaps and circumlocutions in Confessions can be seen as Crowley struggling with how much to reveal and what cover story to use.
By March 1913, Crowley’s next cover story was in place. He convinced Leila Waddell, who had some success in 1912 as a soloist – she played New York that summer with a production of Two Little Brides – to form a Ragtime dance band, Ragtime being an international musical sensation that year. So, the “Ragged Ragtime Girls” were formed, based mostly on Waddell’s violin playing and the selection of very skimpy and tastefully ragged costumes for the rest of the girls, whom Crowley described as “three… dipsomaniacs, four nymphomaniacs, two hysterically prudish” among six young ladies. Their opening shows at the Old Tivoli in London were an immediate success. However, Crowley chose not to follow up such musical success with the usual tour of the vaudeville circuit in Great Britain. Crowley, curiously enough, signed the girls up for six weeks in Moscow, at the Aquarium theatre, in the summer of 1913. Needless to say, this was not exactly the way to become famous as a music hall act. It was playing the backwoods with a vengeance.
Just a few weeks before departing for Russia with the girls, Crowley attended a secret Masonic conclave in Manchester where he helped the Reuss faction to wrest control of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Masonry, one of England’s oldest esoteric Masonic organizations. In a direct sense, this firmed up Crowley’s connection to and control over the Masonic underworld of both England and the Continent. So, why head off to Russia when things were beginning to look up in England? The simplest explanation is that he was sent, by his intelligence handlers and not by the occult secret chiefs. Russia at that point was the key figure in the emerging allied counterweight to Germany, however all was not well with the Romanov Empire and its dynasty. The assassination in September 1911 of Russian Premier Pytor Arkadyevich Stolypin in front of Tsar Nicholas II at the Kiev Opera house by a former secret police agent sent shock waves through the empire. Along with a sense of deep insecurity ran an undercurrent of hatred for the Tsarina due to her dependence on a peasant “holy man,” Grigori Rasputin, to heal her young hemophiliac son, the Tsarevich Alexis.
Crowley seems to have gained these insights from his conversations with the “excellent British consul Mr. Groves.” For someone who claimed to have spent his time in the garden at the Hermitage writing poetry, Crowley reports a few too many of the excellent Mr. Groves’ anecdotes. One of them, concerning a phantom battleship, could be considered of direct interest to an intelligence agency such as the British Admiralty. How well Crowley did succeed at his probable second objective, gathering information and contacts within the Russian esoteric and Masonic underground is hard to fathom. Because of his connections through Reuss to Dr. Encausse, Crowley would have had entry to the whole array of occult Moscow. It is likely that he met P. D. Ouspensky. His Tertium Organum had just been published the year before and he was the current darling of the esoteric circles. It is also possible that Crowley met G. I. Gurdjieff at this point. Gurdjieff’s Moscow flat, scene of many mysterious late night meetings that summer, was just a few blocks from the Aquarium theatre where the ragged girls performed. If so, we have little or nothing in the way of proof. But there is one oddly revealing clue in Crowley’s Confessions. The Ragged Ragtime Girls broke up seemingly on the completion of their run at the Aquarium. The Girls headed directly back to England, but Crowley and Leila Waddell took a side trip to St. Petersburg. Crowley records that, three days before the end of the Girls’ run, his literary steam ran out. It might also have been the moment at which he was forced to compose his gloomy assessment of the Russian situation. Given his dark mood, it is odd that he would detour through St. Petersburg just for the chance to sail home through the Baltic Sea. Unless of course, he had to complete one final part of his mission…
No assessment of Russia in the summer of 1913, particularly one along Crowley’s lines of expertise, could avoid Rasputin. He was a power at court, the Tsarina’s main support and in her mind the only person on earth who could help the young Tsarevich. It may have seemed imperative that Crowley at least get a glimpse of him. That would easily have been accomplished that summer by visiting a few gypsy nightclubs, such as the Villa Rhode or anything in the Novaya Derevnya district of The Islands. Whatever Crowley’s mission in St. Petersburg, it took only a few weeks and by fall he and Waddell were back in England after a relaxing trip through the Baltic.
The last issue of the Equinox was published in September 1913 and Crowley resumed his travels back and forth between London and Paris, with his focus now on magically developing the secrets he had learned from the OTO. In the early spring of 1914, he made a brief visit to Stockholm, the gateway to Russia, for undisclosed reasons. By the summer however, the Beast had returned to Switzerland and mountain climbing. Or so at least went his cover story.
He was in Switzerland when the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28th, and in Paris when war was declared on August 2nd. In his Confessions there are hints that he was ill with a leg injury, and he would later tell an American reporter that he had been shot in the leg during confidential services for the British government at the start of the war. Just what this operation may have been is impossible to determine, except that Switzerland was full of radical exiles from all over Europe, including Russian revolutionaries and German mystics.
Winston Churchill with Swiss Foreign Ministers at Allmendingen Castle, Bern, 1946
Crowley was back in London by early September, and offered his services to the government in any capacity it cared to use him. Unlike his friend Fielding, who was given a commission and moved directly into propaganda and liaison work for the Admiralty, Crowley was assigned a whole different kind of job. On October 24th, 1914, Crowley sailed on the Lusitania for New York and his new assignment. For the next five years, Crowley would spy on and play the agent provocateur to Germany’s intelligence apparatus in America.”
COUNTERFEIT TRAITORS : BRITISH INTELLIGENCE in AMERICA, 1914-1918
International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 13: 359-371, 2000
by Dr Richard Spence
“Crowley’s adventures in metaphysics have tended to overshadow his other attributes: mountaineer, writer, artist – and spy. While Crowley’s actual or rumored connections to intelligence, particularly British intelligence, span most of his career, most comment and controversy has centered on his activities in the Unites States during World War I (WWI). Undeniably, during 1915-1918 Crowley publicly proclaimed himself an Irish nationalist at war with England, and penned virulent anti-British / anti-Allied articles for U.S. publications, most notably George Sylvester Viereck’s pro-German The Fatherland.
Typical of these effusions were his description of King George V as an “obscene dwarf,” and a maniacal defense of unrestricted submarine warfare. These were unusual actions for a born-and-bred Englishman who heretofore had shown no interest in national or political causes. Of course, as many would note, Aleister Crowley was an unusual man. British officials were aware of Crowley’s apparent treason, but made no attempt to thwart him or prosecute him after his return to England in 1919. Not everyone was so forgiving. The jingoistic John Bull, which had earlier manifested animus toward Crowley, excoriated him as a “dirty renegade” and “traitorous degenerate” and demanded his punishment by the “land he sought to defile.”
Such accusations were to dog Crowley for the rest of his life and cause him no little distress. In his own defense, Crowley claimed to have acted under instruction of British intelligence, with the aim of undermining German efforts through absurdity and hyperbole. His writing for The Fatherland, he argued, was “so blatantly extravagant only a German would have believed it.” One who did was George Viereck, who later acknowledged Crowley’s efforts. “One of the contributors to The Fatherland was Aleister Crowley,” he wrote, “a British poet who has been compared to Swinburne …” Even Viereck, however, dismissed Crowley’s explanation: “Crowley subsequently boasted of being in the British Secret Service, but his claims are repudiated by Sir William Wiseman.” Yet Wiseman, the mastermind of British intelligence in World War I New York, was a man whose word must be taken with much salt where such matters are concerned. Certainly no one from official circles openly supported Crowley, and to this day, the verdict on his World War I activity remains mixed. In Crowley’s belated (1993) entry in The Dictionary of National Biography, Gerald Suster notes without comment the subject’s insistence that he had been employed by “British Naval Intelligence” (NID).
The late espionage historian ‘Richard Deacon’ (Donald McCormick, himself an NID veteran), asserted that “it was established that [Crowley] had indeed genuinely been trying to help the Allies.” Established how and by whom he does not say. Crowley biographer John Symonds suggests that the tale of confidential service for the British Government was a “neat little legend” concocted by an egomaniac and quite likely a traitor. As recently as 1998, a writer for the Daily Mail wrote of unspecified evidence that proved Crowley “really was a pro-German activist.” Added to these are surmises that the self-styled “Mega Therion” was a double agent serving both British and German interests. But none of these allegations has been supported by documentary evidence.Somewhere in the yet-sequestered files of MI6 or MI5 there may rest the full story of the Great Beast’s WWI adventures. A few of his footprints linger in the pre-1920 index to Foreign Office correspondence, but all of these files,including one focused on his anti-British propaganda efforts, were long ago “weeded” from the public domain.
Such a thorough expurgation is unlikely to have been accidental. But newly available evidence from the archives of the United States Army’s Military Intelligence Division (MID) confirms official British knowledge and acceptance of his actions, and specifically identifies him as an employee of His Majesty’s Government. With that established, the question becomes one of determining just what service he provided. Crowley’s job may have been more than a mere faux-propagandist. Because “British intelligence” in WWI America was represented by different, and sometimes conflicting, organizations, Crowley’s employment by one did not rule out his being the suspect of another. Finally, the Great Beast’s role can be compared to two “international spies” active in much the same quarters in wartime NewYork: Sidney Reilly and Ignace Timothy Trebitsch-Lincoln.
According to Crowley’s “autohagiography,” The Confessions of Aleister Crowley
(1929), he offered his services to the British government at the outbreak of the war without success – formally at least. He did have at least one personal friend in government, subsequently posted to “intelligence,” the Hon. Francis Everard Fielding. Crowley finally accepted an “invitation,” from whom it is unclear, to go to New York as a purchasing agent, a job for which he had neither experience nor talent. He arrived there aboard the Lusitania in late October 1914, but like that ill-fated vessel, his venture was destined not to prosper, at least economically. What followed were five years of frequent penury, a good deal of travel, and scores of occult workings, mostly of the sexual variety. His record of this period is vague, to say the least. Symonds notes that “apart from outstanding events, we know little of what he was doing and with whom he was doing it.”
Crowley seems especially coy when it comes to his intelligence connections, emphasizing misunderstanding and rejection, but acknowledging that some degree of collaboration indeed transpired. In Confessions, Crowley recounts his continuing efforts to serve the British cause in the United States. He offered to “find out exactly what the Germans were doing in America,” and through the confidence he enjoyed of a “man high in the German Secret Service,” to go to Germany itself. These offers, he argues, fell largely on deaf ears. As a result, he was “forced” to play “a lone hand” and infiltrated the German network in NewYork on his own initiative. His introduction to Viereck he attributes to a chance encounter with a stranger on a bus. While not in the least Irish, and thoroughly English in manner and appearance, Crowley could claim a plausibly Irish surname plus some past association with poet William Butler Yeats (via the occult Golden Dawn group).
According to the Beast’s later explanation, this was enough to convince the gullible Viereck that he was the leader of a secret committee for the liberation of Ireland. There is good reason to suppose that Crowley’s explanation is not the whole story. Soon after his arrival in New York he encountered John Quinn, an Irish-American lawyer, politician, and avid bibliophile. According to Crowley, Quinn helped him out of acute financial difficulty by purchasing some of his rare volumes. Quinn was also an important figure in the Irish movement in New York. Indeed, only a few months before Crowley’s arrival, Quinn had played host to Sir Roger Casement, the nationalist firebrand soon destined to become a martyr to the cause. Quinn’s nationalism, however, was of a more moderate variety; he favored home rule over independence and aligned himself with the Entente in the European war. For this he was well-received at the British consulate and likely by other entities of His Majesty’s Government as well. It seems quite possible that Quinn was Crowley’s intelligence “contact” in New York and perhaps his paymaster. Quinn, who knew the local political and literary scenes well, also would have been the logical person to steer the Beast in Viereck’s direction. In July 1915, Crowley garnered the attention of the New York Times. On the morning of the 3rd, he and nine companions cruised across New York Harbor in a small launch flying an Irish flag and dropped anchor off the Statue of Liberty.
“In the prow of the boat was Aleister Crowley, Irishman-poet, philosopher, explorer, a man of mystic mind – the leader of an Irish hope. He is said to be a close friend of William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, and he has written several Irish poems himself.”
Calling themselves the “Secret Revolutionary Committee of Public Safety of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic,” the group proclaimed the independence of Ireland and declared war on England. Later, sailing past docked ships of the Hamburg-America Line, they were cheered by German seamen. Crowley was the acknowledged leader of the enterprise, which included his ‘scarlet woman’ Leila Waddell, who offered patriotic Irish airs on her violin. The Times reporter described Crowley as a “poet, philosopher, explorer, a man of mystic mind, and the leader of Irish hope. Of nearly middle age and mild manner,” the piece continued, “with the intellectual point of view colored with cabalistic interpretations, Crowley is an unusual man.” What more mainstream Irish patriots thought of Crowley’s bold initiative is not recorded, but the action does not seem to have provoked any outpouring of support. Crowley protested the coverage, which he thought made him and his tiny movement look silly. If so, he only added to this perception some days later in a letter to the Times, in which he proclaimed the Irish to be the noble descendants of ancient Egypt and Atlantis. Whether these antics delighted Viereck is uncertain, but if they were not also intended to lampoon and discredit Irish separatism, they certainly should have been. As such, they suited British interests very well.
His Irish activities first brought Crowley to the attention of American authorities. The earliest among the MID items devoted to him is a page from a large volume of ‘suspects’ based on information predating U.S.entry into the war. The relevant entry properly identifies him as Edward Alexander Crowley (he adopted Aleister in 1897), but listed his nationality as Irish and his occupation, journalist. His earlier expedition to Kashmir was noted, along with his claims of travel in India, Persia, and Tibet. An interesting physical description estimated his age at 40 (he was 41 in 1916), and noted he was “athletic looking, but [with] air of effeminacy; soft, plump hands; wears many rings.” An additional item, dated 21 January 1916, noted his involvement with the Irish “Secret Revolutionary Committee,” and an “offensive” (anti-British) article in the Chicago periodical, Open Court. Another entry, dated 29 January, called him a “degenerate Irish journalist, pro German,” and that British port authorities were to search him and hand him over to Scotland Yard if apprehended. Indeed, it was noted that all or most of the above information came straight from British sources, specifically MI5.The next items in the “Crowley file” date from July-August 1917 and concern his connection to an American spiritualist, George Winslow Plummer, identified as “a representative in this country of an occult German order, the head of which is Mr. Rudolf Steiner, in Berlin.”
Most disturbing to the authors of these reports was the rumor that Plummer and Crowley were able to communicate with Steiner via telepathy. The occult order referred to was almost certainly the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), an offshoot of Rosicrucianism, formed in Germany around 1900. While Steiner’s relationship with this body is a matter of some dispute, there is no doubt that another German, Theodor Reuss, was its guiding light and the very man who had inducted Crowley into the order in 1912. Most importantly, Reuss had a long association with German intelligence. Crowley had boasted of long acquaintance with someone “high in the German secret service” whose “absolute confidence” he enjoyed. Oddly, U.S. reports on this incident seem unaware of the earlier British information linking the Mega Therion to German propaganda. Gumshoe work by the New York City police established that Crowley was an Englishman and a “general fakir” who was “probably chased from England where he fleeced some society women out of money.”
But the investigators were unable to locate Crowley or any recent information about him. The case did reach the attention of MID chief Lt. Col. Ralph Van Deman, who ordered his New York Station, headed by Nicholas Biddle to dig further. A year later Crowley’s name turned up again in the American reports, this time in a general summary of cases from the resident intelligence officer at West Point, New York. Crowley, who had been camping on Esopus Island in the Hudson River as part of a ‘magikal retreat’ had come to the attention of the office because of his connection to Madeleine George, an actress from New York City suspected of being a German spy. The investigating officer soon discovered that the Beast had already been subjected to an inquiry by the Justice Department because of his work for Viereck.
As a result of this, “it was found that the British government was fully aware of the fact that Crowley was connected with this German propaganda…” Moreover, “It was determined that Aleister Crowley was a employee of the British Government … at present in this country on official business of which the British Counsel (sic) in New York has full cognizance.” The message seemed quite clear: Crowley was ‘OK’ and the Americans should leave him be. The Americans were not entirely satisfied, however; the report concluded that “in view of the information which has been gathered within the past two months it may be possible that Aleister Crowley is double crossing the British Government.” But there is no explanation of this suspicion. In any case, Crowley was working for the British, and contrary to his later recollections, he had official recognition and support.
MI 1C CONNECTION
The key to sorting out this conundrum is the British consul who vouched for him, Charles Clive Bayley. Bayley, who assumed the general consul’s post in New York City in October 1915, was a career diplomat whose prior service included a stint in New York (1899-1908) and most recently in Moscow (1913-1915). The first provided him with the acquaintance of Norman G. Thwaites, a British journalist who worked in the New York press from 1902-1911, and who returned in 1916 as one of the key British intelligence officers in the United States. In Moscow, Bayley had the opportunity to meet Crowley, who in 1913 played manager to a troupe of British chorus girls (including Waddell) visiting the city.
It is possible, if no more, that this sojourn too may have had some intelligence dimension. In any case, that Bayley would emerge as Crowley’s “protector” in New York seems more than coincidental. But Bayley is only part of a wider and more complicated picture. During the first two years of the war, the chief British intelligence officer in New York, and the United States as a whole, was Captain (later Admiral) Sir Guy Gaunt. Officially, Gaunt was naval attache’, but he eagerly embraced the role of spymaster, reporting primarily to the Admiralty’s Director of Intelligence, Admiral Reginald “Blinker” Hall, and secondarily to MI5 counterintelligence. The problem was that he was not a very good spy. Gaunt had a large ego, and a mouth to match, with the result that his intelligence role was common knowledge to friend and foe alike. As naval attache’, his indiscretions threatened to compromise the position of the British government.
In early 1916, now-Capt.Thwaites returned to New York to join Lt. Col. Sir William Wiseman who had established there a branch of MI1c, Section V, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, later MI6). This organization operated under the skillful hand of Commander Mansfield Smith-Cumming, who believed in keeping the secret in secret service. Wiseman, as the chief of station, camouflaged his intelligence duties under the operation of the British Purchasing Commission. He also had quasi-diplomatic duties, and so left much of the day-to-day running of intelligence operations to his trusted assistant Thwaites. Outwardly the relationship of Gaunt’s and Wiseman’s operations was one of cooperation, but a bitter rivalry bubbled just below the surface. As a result, Gaunt was gradually squeezed from the picture until finally recalled to London in 1918.
Otherwise, the MI1c office operated with almost complete autonomy. In intelligence matters Wiseman and Thwaites answered solely to “C” (Cumming), and routinely ignored or defied not only Gaunt but also MI5. Consul Bayley worked closely with the Wiseman-Thwaites faction and was mistrusted by Gaunt and his deputies. In his intervention on behalf of Crowley, Bayley likely acted as a stand-in for Wiseman et al., who had good reason to disguise any such connection from both the Americans and fellow countrymen such as Gaunt. Gaunt has the dubious distinction of being the only British official in New York mentioned by name in Confessions. Crowley recounts his fruitless efforts to interest Gaunt in Viereck’s operation, despite the fact that The Fatherland had exposed a valuable Allied agent.
For his part, Gauntlater told Symonds that he regarded Crowley as “small time traitor.” Inexplicably, Gaunt also took credit for keeping British justice off Crowley’s back. Like his later claim to have been the sole chief of British intelligence in America, this boast is hollow. Gaunt undoubtedly had a handle on Crowley’s activities in New York, but he also was the obvious source of the negative information supplied to the Americans in 1915. Gaunt despised and disparaged Crowley just as he did another agent employed by the Thwaites-Wiseman team, Sidney Reilly. Crowley later recounted that through some vague arrangement, he did “submit reports from time to time” to British officials.” Since these certainly did not go to Gaunt’s hands, such reports must have been received by Wiseman’s MI1c organization. Other clues connect Crowley to that sphere. The most important is the previously mentioned John Quinn. In addition to his pro-Allied stance, or because of it, Quinn was on intimate terms with both Thwaites and Wiseman. Among other things, he provided Wiseman with a confidential evaluation of the Casement affair’s impact on American opinion.
In short, Quinn himself was connected to MI1c. Next, there is a link between the Beast and another agent known to have been enlisted by Wiseman. This was W. Somerset Maugham, who undertook a mission to Russia on Wiseman’s behalf in 1917. Maugham had known Crowley for years and used him as the model of his 1908 novel, The Magician. Finally, the Americans had linked Crowley to a suspected German agent, Madeleine George. He omits mention of her (and others) in Confessions, but in his diary, George appears as one of his “assistants” during his retreat on Esopus Island. Her trail led back to an assortment of demimondaines and would-be femmes fatale associated with the scandal-ridden Russian missions in NewYork, objects of acute interest for Wiseman’s office.
The Russian Consulate and the related Supply Commission in New York were hot beds of German and other intrigue. In 1917 accusations of graft and treason erupted, centering on Col. Vladimir Nekrassov, a Russian officer connected to the Supply mission. The incriminating information found its way to Gaunt’s hands, but his efforts to force an investigation were stonewalled by Thwaites. The reason for this obstruction was that through the likes of Reilly – and perhaps Crowley – MI1c operated informers and double agents among the Russians to keep tabs on German machinations and to try a few of their own. Thwaites later noted the case of one of his agents (Reilly’s partner Antony Jechalski) who “so involved himself by prying into German affairs that he had become suspect.” The same could be said of Crowley. It is also worthy of note that Thwaites was a long-time friend of Charles Dillingham, the #2 of New York’s MID head Biddle. Biddle, it will be recalled, was charged by MID chief Van Deman with getting to the bottom of the Crowley matter, just as he was in the case of Reilly and his associates. In the Reilly inquiry, Dillingham consistently deferred all questions to Thwaites, much to the annoyance of MI5; and it may be assumed that he did the same where Crowley was concerned.
The case of Sidney Reilly is instructive because it demonstrates the willingness of Thwaites and Wiseman to employ agents of dubious reputation and to lie about it. When Gaunt’s denunciation caused MID chief Van Deman to query Wiseman on Reilly, Sir William flat out denied any specific knowledge of the man and offered that he might very well be an enemy agent. Yet, at the same instant, Thwaites was on the best of terms with Reilly and his cronies, and relied on them for inside knowledge of Russian and German affairs – including the Nekrassov case. Only weeks later, Wiseman himself approved Reilly’s enlistment in the Royal Flying Corps,and later still recommended him for a sensitive intelligence mission in Russia.
Thus, Wiseman’s public repudiation of Crowley is no more significant than his similar treatment of Reilly. Sir William and his lieutenants had no inhibitions about utilizing rogues and rascals. Crowley was a man with unique qualities and sources of information in corners where other agents could not or would not tread. He clearly demonstrated his ability to gain the confidence of an important German propagandist and to influence his product. He also could monitor enemy currents in the occult underworld.In addition, Crowley might have provided services along the lines of H. Granville Barker, another British subject in America linked to MI1c. During his travels in the United States, Barker sent Wiseman regular reports on public mood and opinion in various locales.
Similarly, Crowley, ever an acute observer, visited Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, among others. Whatever the extent and value of his services, Crowley was a man with an unsavory reputation, and along with the normal reluctance about acknowledging agents, he was not the sort with whom anyone in official circles would wish to be connected. This pariah status was furthered by the continual abuse he suffered in the British press during the 1920s, much of it because of his wartime activities. It even affected his treatment outside Britain. In 1929, for instance, French officials ejected him from their soil on the basis that his past associations proved him a German agent. But did this public reviling of Crowley not conceal an ongoing connection with intelligence, a continuing cover as it were? According to his purported son Amado Crowley, such indeed was the case, but it is not a matter that can be addressed here. To contrast British treatment of the ‘traitor’ Crowley with the treatment handed out to former MP Trebitsch-Lincoln who also tried his hand as an anti-British propagandist in New York is interesting. Although his efforts were less outwardly offensive than Crowley’s, London wasted no time instigating Trebitsch’s arrest and extradition on trumped-up charges, and hauled him home to serve three years in prison. The same might just as easily have been Crowley’s fate. That it was not argues for something more than simple tolerance by the powers that be.
Writing about his father’s involvement with intelligence, Amado Crowley notes that “his very eccentricity … was his cover as an agent.” Whatever the merits of his other claims, this observation fits the Great Beast’s doings in WWI. Crowley is evidence that intelligence assets can come in all forms and embrace the most outlandish attitudes and behavior. His case may also say something about the reasons some accept such unrewarded and unappreciated duties. Why would a man with such evident contempt for social norms and prevailing ideas of human decency be moved to act on behalf of King and Country? Money, of course, but as Crowley supposedly noted with some bitterness, because the Germans paid him “the British Government decided to pay me less.” He explained his peculiar patriotism thus: “I still think the English pot as black as the German kettle, and I am still willing to die in defense of that pot. Mine is the loyalty of Bill Sykes’ dog … the fact that he starves me and beats me doesn’t alter the fact that I am his dog, and I love him.” Whatever its scope and implications, Crowley’s role as British agent by no means redeems his overall reputation. But in this case, at least, he proves to have been more honest than the likes of His Majesty’s servants Gaunt and Wiseman. Sometimes even the Devil tells the truth.”
1. Open Court, Aug. 15; see www.broon.demon.co.uk/media/crowley.htm. This and most of the other articles at this site are from originals in the Yorke Collection, Warburg Institute, London.
2. Under the direction of self-styled arch-patriot Horatio Bottomley, John Bull had attacked Crowley as early as 1910. See items from the 2 April and 2 May issues at www.broon.demon.co.uk/media/crowley.htm.
3. Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography (New York, 1969), pp. 752-753, and Amado Crowley, The Secrets of Aleister Crowley (London, 1991), p. 107.
4. George S. Viereck, Spreading Germs of Hate (New York, 1930), p. 51.
6. “Crowley, Edward Alexander,” C. S. Nicholls (ed.), The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons (Oxford, 1993), pp. 162-163.
7. Richard Deacon [Donald McCormick], The Greatest Treason: The Bizarre Story of Hollis, Liddell and Mountbatten (London, 1989), p. 86.
8. John Symonds, The Great Beast (London, 1971), p. 140.
9. Glenys Roberts, “The Devil’s Disciple,” The Daily Mail , 5 December 1998.
10. Great Britain, Public Record Office, Kew (hereafter PRO), Index to Foreign Office Correspondence, 1906-1919. FO 371/2541 concerned Crowley’s propagand aactivity. Another file likely centered on his American years was FO 371/4264,145230, dated 1919. Other Crowley material was located in FO 371/1216.
11. Confessions, pp. 744, 753, 755 (where Fielding is noted as “A.B.”) and 934n. See also, Aleister Crowley, The Magical Record of the Beast 666: The Diaries of Aleister Crowley, 1914-1920 [edited and annotated by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant] (London, 1972), pp. 91n, 104.
12. Confessions, p. 745.
13. Symonds, p. 135.
14. Confessions, p. 754.
15. Confessions, pp. 749-751. On Viereck’s view, see Symonds, pp. 196-197.
16. Confessions, pp. 745, 934n, and Diaries, pp. 5n, 9-10.
17. Casement subsequently sided with Germany and sought to instigate armed rebellion in Ireland. He was captured and hanged by the British in 1916.
18. Arthur Willert, The Road to Safety: A Study in Anglo-American Relations (New York, 1937), p. 75. Willert worked under Wiseman in the propaganda sphere.
19. The New York Times, 12 July 1915, p. 10.
20. U.S. National Archives (USNA), RG 165, Records of the Military Intelligence Division
(hereafter MID), File 9140-815/1, p. 106.
21. Plummer has been described as a “man of many connections” in the occult scene (Frater Melchior, “Survey of Modern Rosicrucian Groups”). Also connected to this case was another British subject, Rev. Holden Simpson (Sampson).
22. MID, 9140-808, report from Office of Naval Intelligence, “German Suspects,” 10 July 1917.
23. Crowley at various times described Steiner (the founder of Anthroposophy) as a grand master of the OTO or having some relation to it. Peter Koenig asserts,however, that there is “no evidence that Steiner ever was a member of the OTO.” See Koenig, “The Early O.T.O. and Its Development.” Crowley also mentioned Reuss as the ‘Outer Head’ of the OTO in 1914: Confessions, pp. 709, 934n.
24. In the 1880s, Reuss (who was half English) was expelled from the German Socialist League as a police spy and later spent years in Britain; Symonds, p. 152.
25. Confessions, p. 754.
26. MID 9140-808, Report to Commanding Officer, Bomb Squad, NYPD, 19 September, 1917.
27. The New York Times, 2 October 1915, p. 3:6.
28. For these early years, see Thwaites’ memoir, Velvet and Vinegar (New York,1932), pp. 48-66.
29. Confessions, pp. 711-717. Bayley is not mentioned by name, but Crowley noted frequent contact with British consular officials.
30. Gaunt himself recounts one such incident in his The Yield of the Years: A Story of Adventure Afloat and Ashore (London, 1940), pp. 223-225. Typically, he attempts to cast part of the blame on Wiseman, who he portrays erroneously as a mere underling (pp. 167, 190). On Gaunt, see also Richard Popplewell, Intelligence and Imperial Defense of the Indian Empire, 1904-1924 (London, 1995), pp.236-241, 252.
31. Yale University, Sterling Library, Sir William Wiseman Papers (hereafter WWP), Folder 172, American Section M.I.1.c., c. Oct. 1917 and Folder 175, “Memo to New York Office,” [n.d., probably 1916], wherein the relationship of Wiseman and Thwaites is spelled out. This also notes that Wiseman had initiated the MI1c branch in 1915, apparently without Gaunt’s knowledge.
32. On Wiseman’s background activities, see W.B. Fowler, Anglo-American Relations, 1917-1918: The Role of Sir William Wiseman (Princeton, 1969),and The New York Times, obituary, 18 June 1962, p. 25:1.
33. In April 1918, MI5 chief Major Vernon Kell expressed his frustration in a note to his liaison officer in America, Colonel H. E. Pakenham, that the MI1c organization was exceeding its authority in several spheres and even encroaching on the duties of U.S. authorities. See PRO, MI5 Records, KV1/25, pp. 35-36 (#60). KV 1/25 consists of summary reports mostly from 1000/1/USA/1 and C.E. USA files. Soon after the MI5 office in Washington received “instructions not to have anything to do with [MI1c]”: WWP, Folder 171, “Memo Sent to Col. Murray for Information,” 6 September 1918. Wiseman’s connections to Cumming and even the Prime Minister are indicated in WWP, Folder 159, Browning to Wiseman, 5 March 1916 and Lloyd George to Browning, n.d. [c. March 1916].
34. PRO, KV 1/25, 31 (#48, 1000/1/USA/1, 226604).
35. This was the Czech-American, Emanual Voska. See Voska and Irwin, Spy and Counter-Spy, pp. 99-103.
36. Symonds, p. 199.
37. On Reilly’s activities in wartime Manhattan see the author’s “Sidney Reilly in New York, 1914-1917,” Intelligence and National Security , Vol. 10, No. 1(January 1995), pp. 92-212.
38. Confessions , p. 754.
39. Thwaites, p. 193.
40. Willert, p. 75.
41. Crowley, Diaries , p. 82. Crowley’s brief notation describes her as a married woman.
42. During the same period Crowley noted intimacies with a “Russian noblewoman,” Marie Lavrov-Roehling, and with the decidedly Teutonic Gerda von Kothek, Ibid., pp. 72, n. 4 and 78, n. 1.
43. Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, Russia: Posol’stvo, U.S., File 370-12, Col.Nekrassov. See also, M. I. Gaiduk, Utiug: Materialy i fakty o zagotovitel’noi deiatel’nosti russkikh voennykh komissii v Amerike (New York, 1918).
44. Thwaites, 182, and MID, 9140-1496, “Anthony Jechalski,” pp. 86-98.
45. Thwaites, pp. 176-177.
46. MID 9140-6073, Dillingham to Biddle, 22 March 1918, and 13 April 1918, and Biddle to Hunt, 15 April 1918.
47. MID, 9140-6073/817, Wiseman to Van Deman, 9 July 1917.
48. Thwaites, p. 181. Like Wiseman, however, Thwaites told American investigator she thought Reilly a suspicious character: MID 9140-6073, Memorandum #2 to Lt. Irving, p. 4.
49. USNA, Department of State, Counselor’s Office, Chief Special Agent (CSA) file 215, Sharpe to Bannerman, 13 December 1924, 6, and 18 December 1924, p. 3.
50. WWP, Folder 161, Barker to Wiseman, 20 November 1916.
51. The New York Times , 17 April 1929, p. 17:1.
52. Amado Crowley, p. 107. Both Deacon (p. 86) and Symonds (p. 379) note that Crowley later reported on the activities of fellow occultist Gerald Hamilton, specifically his connections to Communists and Nazis in Germany. Interestingly, Hamilton was an Irish nationalist and former confidant of Roger Casement.
53. On Trebitsch’s bizarre and turbulent career, see Bernard Wasserstein,
The SecretLives of Trebitsch Lincoln (New York, 1988) and David Lampe and Laszlo Szenasi, The Self-Made Villain: A Biography of I. T. Trebitsch Lincoln (London, 1961).
54. Amado Crowley, The Riddles of Aleister Crowley (London, 1992), pp. 130-131.
55. Amado Crowley, Secrets, p. 107.
56. Confessions, p. 761.
FREEDOM is a TWO-EDGED SWORD
“J.P. Morgan was a client of one of the world’s most renowned astrologers, Evangeline Adams, who, for whatever reasons, rectified his astrological chart to 1:10 PM, a jump forward of some ten hours… Because the Leo Ascendant chosen by Adams was pretty much opposite the degree of Aquarius rising in the chart based on Morgan’s grandfather’s time, aspects and eclipses relating to one of the horizon’s “angles” would relate to the other, and the astrologer could, thereby, be deceived…”
“…Two books were published under the authorship of Evangeline Adams, both largely ghost-written by Aleister Crowley in 1915 as ‘The General Principles of Astrology: Astrology: Your Place in the Sun’ (1927), and ‘Astrology: Your Place Among The Stars (with One Hundred Horoscopes of Famous People)’ (1930)”
FRONT-RUNNING the SHEMITAH