Stories from History: Crowley and the Lusitania

By 1914, Aleister Crowley found himself nearly impoverished. He was relying heavily on donations his followers and believers, as well as others. Despite this, he was able to go on a mountaineering expedition in Europe at the time that the first World War broke out. In October 1914, he was on the Lusitania to head back to the New World

Before long, he began to express support for Germany as a part of the war effort. Self-identifying as Irish, and a strong proponent of an independent Ireland, he justified this position as it being a situation that could lead to an independent Ireland. By 1915 he had been employed by the Germans as a writer, producing written articles discouraging American support for the war effort.

The truth, however, was that Crowley was a double agent for the British Crown, writing the for the Fatherland in order to gain information. Further, his written pieces were drastically hyperbolic, including a publicity stunt where he unilaterally declared independence for Ireland in front of the Statue of Liberty. His apparent intention was to make the German lobby appear to be ridiculous or otherwise silly in the eyes of the American people.

One of the biggest questions about this period that has plagued his legacy is the question about whether or not it was his encouragement of the German attack of the Lusitania caused it to happen. There were reports that he wrote suggesting that it would ensure the Americans stayed out of the war, despite the fact that it actually ensured that they did enter it.

We cannot be fully certain what his intent was here, but either way, the Lusitania sank and the whole lot of them fell into the dusty tomes of history.

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