Aleister Crowley, The Golden Dawn, and Buddhism
Aleister Crowley, The Golden Dawn and Buddhism comprises a series of 20 essays by Gerald Joseph Yorke, set down over a thirty-year time-span. For four years, from 1928 onwards, Gerald Yorke was one of Aleister Crowley’s closest associates, studying with him, acting as his agent, working on his publications, and participating in his magical ceremonies. During that time he also investigated the path of the mystic through a series of “magical retirements” in the course of which he invoked his “Holy Guardian Angel” whilst tramping alone across the deserts of North Africa, and practiced yoga and meditation in the solitude of a cave on the Welsh coast. When he and Crowley fell out in 1932, Yorke set out for China, where he travelled, studied Buddhism, and worked as a Reuter’s correspondent for some three years. On his return to England he resumed contact with Crowley, but as a friend rather than a follower, and after Crowley’s death in 1947 Yorke was one of the handful of people who laboured to preserve the legacy of “The Beast.” In the process he assembled one of the most significant collections of Crowleyana and occult-related books and documents in the world and remained fascinated by the subject, even though on a personal level he had rejected the occult in favour of Buddhism. Immensely knowledgeable, he gave freely of his time and thought, and was instrumental in the publication of many of the most important works of his times on the occult, yoga and Buddhism.
Gerald Yorke’s interests are reflected in the essays and lectures which are published together here for the first time. Most of these pieces were groundbreaking: his short memoir of Crowley was the first sympathetic biographical piece of any length to be published after The Beast’s death, and his essay on Crowley’s O.T.O. and sexual occultism is the first clear account of the subject in the English language. His essays on ritual magic are unique in their matter-of-factness and sanity, and his writings on the Golden Dawn arguably mark the beginnings of historical research into that group. He also wrote knowledgeably on subjects such as Yoga, Tantra, Mantra and Zen at a time long before they had become common terms in the West.Above all, Yorke’s essays offer a rare blend of straightforward scholarship and genuine first-hand experience. He had known Crowley as few others, and had learned directly from him the principals and practice of magic. Gerald Yorke sifted through a vast archive of then-unpublished Golden Dawn material, and was acquainted with a number of former associates of the Order; he had also studied and practiced yoga, meditation, and aspects of the tantras at a level unimaginable to most Western practitioners of his time. And he wrote on all of these topics with his characteristic wit and good humour.
The essays are accompanied by a biographical Introduction by Keith Richmond, a Reminiscence by Timothy d’Arch Smith, and a revised version of Yorke’s Crowley Bibliography by Clive Harper. The book concludes with a lengthy Interview with Gerald Yorke by David Tibet, undertaken shortly before Yorke’s death in 1983.
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