Crowley in print?

I came across a page on Facebook the other day called Petition the OTO to publish Crowley’s out of print books and Thoth deck. It appears to be a platform for criticising the OTO for – as the name clearly suggests – not keeping Crowley’s books in print, heavily populated by professional complainer “Keith418”.

Other than buying new editions – coincidentally, issued by the OTO – it’s been years since I tried to buy any new Crowley books, so I figured I’d put this complaint to the test by taking a look at the largest online bookseller – – and seeing how easy or difficult it was to acquire said books. Regular readers will be aware that I am not, never have been, and never will be, a member of the OTO, that I can hardly be accused of not being critical of them in the past, and that I therefore have no axe to grind, so this can be viewed as a relatively objective experiment.

I searched for the following books, which represent substantially all of Crowley’s important works, and certainly the only ones someone interested in buying cheap books would be likely to want to acquire:

  • The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley
  • Magick (including Book Four – Parts One and Two, Magick in Theory and Practice, and the Equinox of the Gods)
  • Moonchild
  • The Diary of a Drug Fiend
  • Liber Aleph
  • Little Essays Toward Truth
  • The Confessions of Aleister Crowley
  • The Law is for All
  • Konx Om Pax
  • The Equinox, Volume I
  • The Equinox, Volume III, Number I
  • Gems from the Equinox
  • 777
  • Magick Without Tears
  • The Goetia
  • The Book of Lies
  • The Book of Thoth
  • The General Principles of Astrology
  • Heart of the Master
  • The Revival of Magick
  • Eight Lectures on Yoga
  • The Holy Books of Thelema

The results may be surprising. The following books are in stock and can be purchased, brand new, from, at very reasonable prices (correct as at today’s date):

  • The Book of Lies – $11.53
  • The Diary of a Drug Fiend – $11.53
  • The Book of Thoth – $12.21
  • Heart of the Master – $12.95
  • The Goetia – $13.57
  • 777 – $13.57
  • The Law is for All – $16.95
  • The Revival of Magick – $16.95
  • The Equinox, Volume III, Number I – $34.15
  • Little Essays Toward Truth – $50.00
  • Magick – $50.40
  • The General Principles of Astrology – $54.00

The following books are in stock and can be bought, brand new, from other booksellers, but through

  • Konx Om Pax – $7.23
  • Moonchild – $40
  • Liber Aleph – $62.33
  • Magick Without Tears – $79.50
  • Eight Lectures on Yoga – $122.46
  • The Holy Books of Thelema – $128.99
  • Gems from the Equinox – $148.21

The last three are pretty pricey, but used copies can be obtained second hand through for $30.00, $71.97, and $30.00, respectively.

So, all the above books can be purchased brand new, immediately, easily, for a price that is not extortionate, and those few that are pricey can be obtained second hand for a much more reasonable price.

That just leaves three books which cannot be purchased new through Of these:

  • The Confessions of Aleister Crowley is available used through from $45.99
  • The Equinox, Volume I – which is always going to be pricey – is available used through for $500
  • The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley is not available from, but a brand new copy is available at abebooks for only $56.10

The moral of this story? With the exception of The Equinox and The Confessions (an expanded and annotated version of which is apparently in preparation by the OTO anyway), all of Crowley’s major works are easily available to be purchased, brand new, from major and recognized online booksellers, at generally reasonable prices. Thus, while it may be true that the OTO is not keeping the books in print, there appears to be no compelling reason for the OTO to do so, since with two exceptions – one of which is apparently in the process of being prepared – it’s easy and cheap to get them all. One might be led to conclude that given this state of affairs, the publishing efforts of the OTO may be better directed towards producing better versions of, oh, I don’t know, Magick, Liber Aleph, Little Essays Toward Truth, The Confessions, and the like, as well as issuing new works such as The Revival of Magick and The Equinox, Volume III, Number II (the latter also apparently in progress). Which, coincidentally enough, is exactly what they seem to have been doing.

I don’t have an overly high opinion of the OTO, and as far as their activities towards buying property, dressing up and performing rituals, and pretending to be spiritual giants goes, I really couldn’t give a damn. But, one thing that I think is beyond reasonable doubt is that the publishing activities they have been carrying out – regardless of what one thinks of the speed at which they have been carrying them out – are superb, and represent a great service to the Thelemic community. A well prepared, well researched, well introduced, and well annotated volume like 1998’s Magick is worth far more than any number of cheap print-on-demand versions of Magick Without Tears and 777 – complete with Regardie’s horrendously inane, superficial, and moralising introductions and inept editing – particularly when the latter are so easy to come by, and if I had to choose which of the two types of endeavour I’d want the copyright-holders of Crowley’s corpus to pursue, I’d take the former every time. In fact, if all the OTO did was to churn out cheap versions of books that it’s already easy to acquire, then their publishing activities could legitimately come in for some criticism. As it is, I personally think that the OTO – Bill Breeze in particular – has been doing a sterling job in this department, and should be commended for it by anyone with a serious interest in Crowley’s legacy.

10 Comments on “Crowley in print?”

By Los. April 3rd, 2010 at 1:44 am

I realize that this post is about Crowley’s works in *print*, but I think it’s also worth noting that almost all important Crowley texts can be read in full online. As far as I know, they were made available online by the OTO — and in many cases, the entry of the text is attributed to upper-degree members.

Making all of these texts available online is a tremendous benefit to the Thelemic community, and it gives the writings a wide exposure to anyone who is curious. I myself first started reading Crowley’s works online many years ago before I began to acquire printed copies of the texts, and I imagine that others are in a similar position.

Incidentally…$128.99 for the Holy Books of Thelema? I picked up my copy from a large bookstore for about $25. Granted, that was about six or seven years ago now, but I could have sworn I’ve seen copies on the shelf fairly recently.

By Erwin. April 3rd, 2010 at 9:09 am

I think it’s also worth noting that almost all important Crowley texts can be read in full online. As far as I know, they were made available online by the OTO…Making all of these texts available online is a tremendous benefit to the Thelemic community

I personally loathe reading books online, and many of those online texts – understandable, since someone had to sit down and type them all in – contain a lot of errors, but you’re absolutely right, of course. It’s also worth pointing out that every text the OTO puts online – or allows others to put online – is a text they could be trying to make money by selling in crappy print versions, so you have to give them credit for that.

People moan about how “unthelemic” – what an awful word! – copyright is, but personally I think the OTO is right to prevent people from issuing crappy versions, and to favour quality over quantity. The versions that the OTO have issued in recent-ish years are vastly superior in quality than some of the crap that came out before that.

Incidentally…$128.99 for the Holy Books of Thelema? I picked up my copy from a large bookstore for about $25.

With the exception of the Collected Works which I couldn’t find at all there, I deliberately restricted myself to a single retailer/portal, to see how easy it was even for the very idle and unimaginative who never leave their homes. I’m sure some of the titles are easy to find more cheaply for someone prepared to put in a smidgeon of effort.

By LAShTAL. April 6th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

An excellent post, Erwin. As a fellow-non-OTO-member, I share your enthusiasm for what Bill Breeze has achieved and for the effort he’s applied to books such as ‘Magick’, ‘Astrology’ and so on.

By Joseph Thiebes. April 7th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Well said. These guys have been complaining about this for ages. Here also is my previous effort to refute their ridiculous complaints, which itself is an update of an earlier effort by T Omphalos:

By Erwin. April 8th, 2010 at 7:50 am

Here also is my previous effort to refute their ridiculous complaints…

I’d forgotten about the diaries and complete version of Magick Without Tears in the works, so thanks for reminding us about those. I think it also shows how utterly bizarre this suggestion that O.T.O. is somehow trying to suppress publication of works like Magick Without Tears because they don’t sit well with the “middle class bourgeois values” of the leadership really is.

I’m frankly baffled as to why anybody would want O.T.O. to focus on pumping out cheap versions of the likes of The Vision and the Voice and Liber Arcanorum – which few people are going to read, and which even fewer are going to get anything out of reading – at the expense of significant projects like this.

As far as the speed of these projects goes, even the most cursory of glances at a work like Magick should clearly reveal the amount of time and effort that HB had to put into it, and there are only so many hours in a day. To delay these projects even further in order to squeeze out versions of readily available books that these folks seem outraged at having to pay so much as $50 for would seem like madness, to me.

By Petition the OTO. April 9th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

(The following comment was posted to the same Facebook page mentioned in the original entry, by the creator of that page. The only way I can respond to it there is by allowing Facebook to put it on public record that I’m a “fan” of that page, which I refuse to allow as a matter of principle. Quite besides which, comments on my blog entries belong on my blog. So, I’ve reproduced the comment below, and if the author wants to respond, he/she is invited to do so here.)

Erwin, I understand why you would not care where you got the Crowley as long as you could get the Crowley but as a dues paying member I do care. To me, it’s important for the OTO to be publishing. Although it’s true some of these books for sale are listed as ” new” they are still ” out of print.” Books such as The Holy books of Thelema, Confessions, MWT and Liber Aleph. Why the Order would let these core books go out of print is where a problem lies, at least in my opinion.

By Erwin. April 9th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Erwin, I understand why you would not care where you got the Crowley as long as you could get the Crowley but as a dues paying member I do care.

What gripes you wish to raise with an organisation of which you are a dues-paying member is between you and that organisation, and is of neither of any concern nor of any interest to me. That being said:

1. The books OTO publishes are sold and paid for on the open market, and not (usually) distributed free-of-charge to dues-paying members, so playing the “I’m a dues-paying member” card isn’t going to cut any ice on this particular issue. As both someone who parts with hard-earned cash to acquire books issued by OTO, and someone with an interest in the legacy of Aleister Crowley and therefore in the publishing activities of the organisation who holds the copyrights to that legacy, I’ve just as much cause to comment on this issue as you or anybody else does, OTO member or otherwise.

2. In any case, you gave up your privilege of playing the “dues-paying member” card when you opened up a Facebook petition to air your dirty laundry in public, so I’m all out of sympathy on that front.

To me, it’s important for the OTO to be publishing.

The OTO is publishing. Where have you been? Look at the list Joseph Thiebes just linked to. Granted, perhaps not all of the works on there are OTO-issue, but most of them are. If you were to repeat the experiment I made in this post, you’d find out that the primary reason the Crowley books are so easy to get hold of is because OTO has published versions of them in recent years. If OTO hadn’t done that, they’d be much harder to get hold of.

Although it’s true some of these books for sale are listed as ” new” they are still ” out of print.”

So what? Who cares if they are “out of print” as long as people can get them? The issue seems to be a merely symbolic one to you, that OTO is somehow “not serious” by letting some of the books go out of print, regardless of whether there is any compelling reason to keep them in print. If the books were difficult to get hold of, then you’d have a case, but as I’ve demonstrated, they aren’t; they’re easy to get hold of.

You seem to want OTO to go to a lot of time and expense to do something which has practically no tangible benefit beyond purely symbolic value. Now, while I would certainly agree that it would be nice for all the books to be in print, keeping them in print is not a costless exercise. While I’m sure it’s not entirely accurate to state that the publishing arm of OTO is basically HB holding down the fort all by his lonesome, it’s probably not a million miles from the truth either, and he’s got to eat and sleep just like the rest of us do. Every hour he spends pointlessly keeping easy to obtain books in print is another hour he’s not spending doing something far more valuable, like working on the new edition of The Confessions, or that version of Magick Without Tears that you seem to want so much. In addition to the time element, there’s a money element there, too; OTO is not exactly overflowing with wealth, and I seriously doubt that the majority of dues-paying members would want their dues to finance endless editions of books which should be financing themselves, especially when the previous editions haven’t even sold out yet. There are much better things those dues could go towards supporting instead of this pointless and distractionary crusade.

In other words, it’s a question of priorities, and a question of the allocation of scarce resources. If there were important texts that were hard to obtain, then allocating some of those resources to issuing new versions would be welcome, but if there aren’t, then those resources are better allocated to producing the kind of new stuff which has already been released and which is currently being worked on. Keeping easy-to-obtain books unnecessarily in print for the mere and pointless sake of doing so is a distraction from much more important work, and while you may want the OTO to do this, I don’t.

By Alrah. April 11th, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I’m not an OTO member and I was a commercial publisher – so I have no axe to grind. It’s clear that the person running this campaign ahould really do a little more research into the realities of publishing.

To keep these books in print would require the OTO to have them printed in vanity publishing quantites (up to 2,000 books), which would at least double and more probably triple the cost of them – something that is hardly in the best interests of Aleister Crowleys legacy.

And then there’s the matter of secure storage (not cheap) that has to be paid for and is a drain on any income the books bring in while they slowly sell. They can’t be shoved into someones spare garage. One print run of 10,000 books get’s delivered by an artic truck. They take up a *lot* of space, and that kind of storage space costs money – money that I’m sure most of the due paying OTO members don’t want to see wasted storing even more books with a slow turn around just to see them kept ‘in print’.

Publishing is not something people get into to make a profit. The turn around (and turn over) in even popular books isn’t fast enough for that. Publishing is something that investors get into because their financial advisors tell them they need to tie up some capital so they won’t be hammered by the tax man. This is hardly the motivation of the strapped for cash OTO however, and I think they do very well to keep as many books on the market as they do.

It’s not a matter of keeping the books ‘in print’ – it’s a matter of keeping the books available on the marketplace, and as Erwin’s research shows – the OTO are doing that and fulfilling their remit.

By alysa. April 17th, 2010 at 10:44 pm


By Richard. May 8th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Like yourself, I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the OTO, and over the years I have had many a dispute with members regarding the actions of that organization.
I will go on record as commending them in their efforts to publish the works of Crowley, and to keep good copies available to the interested reader at a reasonable price.
I am old enough to remember the days, before the Caliphate, when if you wanted to buy Crowley’s works you had either to haunt antiquarian booksellers and pay whatever was asked, or buy a reprint (where available) that might be of questionable quality.
I distinctly remember paying nearly a hundred pounds (then about $225) for a facsimile printing of Liber Aleph: crappy binding, too.
Guys today really don’t understand how good they have it, as compared to the situation that appertained in the 60’s and early 70’s.

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