I’ve read this book, One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy, three times and I am of an equal number of minds about it, hence my waiting till now to publish my thoughts (and concerns) regarding what is, frankly, a fascinating, if not controversial, exploration of the History of Thelema, at least since the passing of the Great Beast.
Here’s what the dust jacket has to say about it:
Based upon academic research at the University of Amsterdam’s Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, One Truth and One Spirit is a much-needed work that covers a previously unexplored history of the modern religious movement known as Thelema. This work details the theoretical framework of Aleister Crowley’s spiritual legacy in the O.T.O. and the A:.A:. and covers the years of Thelema since Crowley’s death in 1947.
One Truth and One Spirit approaches a complex topic with a complex history, with exhaustive citations and sources, but it is written for anyone interested in the subject of Thelema. The author utilizes published source material as well as previously unavailable information, which makes this a unique contribution to the available literature.
One Truth and One Spirit is expected to be of interest to the novice, the scholar, and the seasoned practitioner of Thelema. The work provides a general historical overview of Thelema from a theoretical vantage point, explores the historical development of the movement from the 1960s to the 1990s, and applies the author’s own critical discussions on the topic itself.
I promised myself some time ago that I would not publish unfavorable reviews of material sent to me by publishers. Better to remain silent, I think. Not that I am not critical in the reviews I do publish. If I publish a review, then I am recommending it to the public, warts and all. I just see no reason to review a book that I feel is unworthy of purchase. I would rather shine a light on books I feel have some value to readers like myself. As always, these are just my opinions. Take that as you will.
Which leads me to One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy by Keith Readdy ( Foreword by Vere Chappell).
Fitting, in many respects, that I am writing this on the Second Day of the Feast of the Three Days of the Writing of the Book of the Law.
I came to Crowley, in 1977, by way of Lovecraft, oddly enough, for it was Lovecraft that led me to the Simon Necronomicon, which led me to Cavendish’s fourth volume of Man, Myth, and Magic, which then led me to The Book of Lies in my public library. Coupled with an article on Jimmy Page in, I believe, Circus magazine, in which his Crowley fascination was addressed, and, well, I was hooked.
The histories of the Golden Dawn, O.T.O., A:.A:., and countless other magical orders and esoteric faiths, as well as all the principle players involved, has long been a passion of mine. The very finest of the lot would be Richard Kaczynski’s Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley.
That being said, I enjoy a history written with an agenda as much as a more literal and factual bent. I find One Truth and One Spirit to lend itself more to the former than the later.
One Truth and One Spirit is a beautiful book. Ibis Press is really one of the premiere publishing houses and they never cease to amaze me with the level of precision they exude, from graphic design to editorial perfection. I noticed not a single typographical error throughout which is to be commended. The attention to detail is what sets Ibis Press apart and any book they cast out into the world is one worth adding to your library.
As to the content itself, while the history of Thelema as presented by Readdy might be stilted, it is no less fascinating. The author paints a vivid and thorough picture, despite the labyrinthine nature of the occult world after Crowley’s demise.
Readdy seems a bit harsh in terms of some of the players involved, most notably of Soror Meral, the late Phyllis Seckler.
That being said, you will be hard pressed to set this work down, the author’s bias toward the legitimacy of one particular lineage of authority over others notwithstanding.
Therein lies the rub, despite protestations to the contrary, One Truth and One Spirit is intent on steering the narrative, but as I don’t have a proverbial dog in the hunt, I’m fine with it.
And I think most of you will too.
One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy by Keith Readdy, with a Foreword by Vere Chappell, is published by Ibis Press, distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser, and available wherever books are sold.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly.