ALEISTER CROWLEY AND THE PARIS INCIDENT – AN OCCULT MYSTERY
Aleister Crowley in his regalia
Aleister Crowley (12/10/1875–01/12/ 1947 remains as one of the most notorious occultists and magicians in recent history. Raised as a member of the exclusive Plymouth Brethren, Crowley was later initiated, to become relatively prominent in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley’s split with this organisation caused a major schism within the group, the Golden Dawn subsequently stating that his influence on their methods has been highly exaggerated.
Crowley went on to establish his Ordo Templis Orientis and later, the Abbey of Thelema, sited in Cefalu, Sicily. During this time he built links with Freemasonary, claiming initiation into several high ranks though not recognised by the Grand Lodge of England. He also built contact with many influential politicians, movie stars and many modern pop stars. A picture of Crowley is on the cover sleeve of The Beatles 1967 album, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, appearing between the Indian Guru, Sri Yukteswar and Mae West. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame also held and intent interest in Crowley and owned some of his clothing, manuscripts and ritual objects.
Crowley can only be described as, following the left hand path, to use what is rather annoying terminology to any serious occultist. In 1934, he lost a court case against the artist Nina Hamnett who, in her book, The Laughing Torso (published 1932), called Crowley a black magician. In his summing up the judge, Mr. Justice Swift said:
I have never heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous and abominable stuff as that which has been produced by the man (Crowley) who describes himself to you as the greatest living poet.
Crowley viewed himself as a Satanist and Devil worshiper, experimented with drugs, taking the name for himself as The Great Beast and often applying the number 666 in self-description. In the opinion of the mainstream esoteric community, Crowley was self-serving and without interest in gaining or promoting genuine occult understanding other than that which was to his own benefit. As such, he was largely ostracised, though did have and to a certain extent still does, have a following of those that hold similar inclinations.
Crowley disappeared fairly suddenly from public view. Some say he was in decline but nevertheless, his disappearance was still sudden and total and few people know why. This reason is what is known in occult circles as, The Paris Incident.
The Paris Incident came about because Aleister Crowley decided to raise Pan. Whether this was because he saw this as a way to reclaim his declining influence is open to speculation. Whatever the cause, he arranged to undertake this ritual at a small hotel in Paris belonging to one of his followers.
A top room in the hotel was cleared and prepared according to Crowley’s instructions. When ready, Crowley gave strict instructions to his followers that he was not to be disturbed whatever happened and whatever sounds were heard coming from inside the room. Then Crowley, along with his assistant, MacAleister purified and dressed in ornate robes of Crowley’s design. They entered the room and the door was locked. All others present retired to a downstairs room in the hotel to wait out events.
The first problem here is that Pan is a misunderstood character. The connection between Pan and the devil was started by early Church missionaries, probably because of Pan’s description as ugly, cloven hooved, goat legged, with horns etc. A connection was also made between Pan and the ‘Horned God’ but the ‘Horned God’ description relates to Cernunnos, another nature deity. Pan is neither Cernunnos nor the devil or Satan. He is a faun or satyr, a nature spirit who rose to become king of the satyrs.
It is impossible to state conclusively that Crowley, in raising Pan, believed he was raising the devil, though connection prevailing at that time was that Pan and the Devil were one of the same. Occult books of this time, including those by Dennis Wheatley, another renowned occultist of the era, also make the mistake of connecting the image of Pan with that of the devil.
Crowley set out to invoke Pan. During the night, those waiting down below heard load banging and screaming. This grew so loud that they went upstairs thinking whether to enter the room or not. This was locked from inside and would mean breaking down the door. Crowley’s instructions prevailed so despite the noise and shouting inside, they went back downstairs to wait the dawn.
Dawn came, neither Crowley, nor his assistant MacAleister appeared. Several hours went by with no further sound from the room above. Eventually those waiting went upstairs and after knocking and receiving no reply, broke down the door.
The seen inside has been described as something from a horror movie. Furniture was broken and splintered to pieces. Both Crowley and his assistant were naked, scratched, bruised and battered, their robes torn to shreds. Mac Aleister was dead.
The police were called leading to an enquiry and trial, but Crowley was unable to answer any questions. He was incoherent, babbled incessantly and was eventually judged insane and sent to a mental institution. Crowley was released several years later but never regained his full faculties, or powers. He died on 1st December 1947 at Netherwood in England in relative obscurity.
There may never be a definitive explanation for what occurred in that locked room, but this confusion concerning Pan’s identity offers one that, from the occult perspective, is hard to dismiss.
This explanation is based on a particular and seemingly unimportant story in the mythology of Pan. It concerns Dionysus, another character from Greek mythology. Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry is described in some accounts as being man-womanish, often acting effete and feminine, from which readers can draw their own conclusion.
Dionysus and Pan were friends. They and Selinus, another satyr and the Maenads, Dionysus’ female followers, are all recorded as often partying together and playing tricks on one another. It is the result of one of these tricks that offers an explanation.
Pan is recorded as falling in love with and being rejected by, due to his ugly appearance, the water nymph Syrinx. The same occurred when he fell in love with the nymphs Echo and Pitys. There are further accounts of similar rejection. As a trick, Dionysus was encouraged to dress as a woman, using a wig and make-up to disguise his appearance. Dionysus then pretended to be attracted to Pan who, due to previous rejection, fell madly in love. They are recorded as kissing openly before the ruse was revealed.
Pan’s reaction was one of humiliation and embarrassment. He flew into a rage during which he cursed that he would never again trust any mortal who approached him dressed in robes and any that did would feel the full wrath of his anger.
Crowley and his assistant set out to raise Pan dressed in their full occult regalia. When the locked door was finally broken down, both had been stripped naked, their robes ripped to shreds. MacAleister was dead and Crowley turned mad and sent to an asylum.
Coincidence, the wrath of Pan or some other explanation? The Paris Incident is an occult mystery, but one that provides a lesson to all those who in future, might consider evoking Pan. Any ritual to Pan should be performed without robes and regalia.