Dead Beats: "Mr. Crowley" by Ozzy Osbourne
A short history lesson and a look at Ozzy's song regarding occultist Aleister Crowley.
I am a huge Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne fan. In fact, I played in a professional tribute band dedicated to these musicians for many years. The members of Black Sabbath are undoubtedly the godfathers of heavy metal, which makes Ozzy its king. Following his split from Sabbath in 1979, he went on to pursue his own solo career that was arguably even more successful and still continues to this day. All of Ozzy's songs are amazing but there is one that always stood out to me due to its ominous atmosphere and historically-inspired lyrics. That song is "Mr. Crowley" from his debut album, 1980's Blizzard of Ozz. The lyrics below paint a very interesting, albeit misunderstood portrait of a real historical figure.
"Mr. Crowley, what went on in your head?
Oh, Mr. Crowley, did you talk to the dead?
Your life style to me seemed so tragic
With the thrill of it all
You fooled all the people with magic
Yeah, you waited on Satan's call
Mr. Charming, did you think you were pure?
Mr. Alarming, in nocturnal rapport
Uncovering things that were sacred
Manifest on this Earth
Conceived in the eye of a secret
And they scattered the afterbirth
Mr. Crowley, won't you ride my white horse?
Mr. Crowley, it's symbolic, of course
Approaching a time that is classic
I hear that maidens call
Approaching a time that is drastic
Standing with their backs to the wall
Was it polemically sent
l want to know what you meant
I want to know, I want to know what you meant, yeah"
The song's title is an obvious reference to Aleister Crowley, an English occultist known for creating the Thelema movement. Some people consider Thelema to be nothing more than a philosophy, but many consider it to be a new type of religion altogether. The main theme is summed up in its main "law" or principle: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will." Crowley was also a ceremonial magician. Contrary to popular belief, he did not think he could cast fireballs or summon demons. Ozzy even asks in the song "Did you talk to the dead?" and later claims "you fooled all the people with magic." However, Crowley considered "magick [sic]" to be nothing more than "the science and art of change to occur in accordance with will," according to his book on the subject. The basic idea behind this is that followers of Thelema needed to to discover their True Will, basically to embrace their destiny and embrace nature in perfect harmony. Those who reached True Will are said to have overcome all of their negative flaws and characteristics, establishing a strong connection with the divine.
At one point in the song Ozzy accuses Crowley of "waiting on Satan's call." However, this association with Satanism is false and entirely unjust. He was not a Devil worshipper in any sense. In fact, Crowley pretty much rejected all of Western religion and is known to have stated that he didn't even believe the Devil exists. He instead placed his focus on Western esotericism, with a leaning towards non-religious ideals. In the most basic sense Crowley embraced non-conformity in his beliefs, instead choosing to be a free-thinker drawing his ideas from science, occult beliefs, and even philosophy from the past. He did have belief in deities from the ancient world, though, likely an influence from his time spent in Egypt. One passage from Crowley's Magick (Book 4) in particular is thought to have been what triggered his association with Satan:
"The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God... "The Devil" is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes... This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade 'Know Thyself!' and taught Initiation. He is 'The Devil' of The Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection... He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is ayin, the Eye, so that he is Light; and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty."
Interestingly, the origins of Bahpomet himself date back to the Crusades. When members of the Knights Templar were being tried during the Inquisition, it was claimed they were commiting blashphemy by worshipping an idol of this goat-like deity. Again, it is somewhat difficult to explain what exactly Crowley thought Baphomet was in relation to his teachings. Maybe he was just a pervert or a sexual deviant, or maybe the man was out of his mind. Regardless, this claim in the belief of Baphomet, which he refers to as literally a divine hermaphrodite and a key figure in the performance of sex magic, is what landed the occultist into hot water. After reading this passage from his book and then seeing what supposed representations of Baphomet is thought to have looked like, it's easy to see how devout Christians in the early 1900s made the leap that Aleister Crowley was worshipping Satan. Crowley was a man that refused to give in to the social norms of the day. This made him an outcast within society and rumors were spread wildly over the following years.
So with the short history lesson aside, it's clear from the lyrics that Ozzy's view of Aleistar Crowley is based more on misinformation and his rumored link to Satanism than the actual truth of the man. Ozzy claims to have written the song after reading one of Crowley's books. Having recently done so myself, I must say I agree with Ozzy when he asked "I want to know what you meant." Crowley's writings can be very vague and esoteric at times, and he even admitted that a lot of his early works, particularly The Book of Law, were based heavily on his time in Egypt. As a result, many of the concepts he tries to explain went beyond his full comprehension. That being said, "Mr. Crowley" is an amazing song, especially the long organ introduction and guitar solo from the late great Randy Rhoades. It has and will always remain one of my favorite heavy metal songs of all time.