Rites of Eleusis


The Rites of Eleusis even though a British theatrical defeat for Aleister Crowley it was an attempt to acquaint both the performers and audience with the Eleusinian Mysteries. This initiatory purpose is judged by some to be the only relationship between Crowley’s play and the Grecian Mysteries, which centers on the dilemma of Demeter after Hades abducts her daughter Persephone. By contrast Crowley’s Rites tell a different story; one of failure of the old gods to give religious guidance for the New Aeon.

Crowley’s theme was derived from the seven planetary influences in Western esotericism and more related to Shakespeare’s seven ages of man. The aged Saturn can only counsel in despair; Jupiter is impotent; Mars is beset by lust causing him to lack wisdom; Apollo the Sun is slain because he cannot harmonize the internal good and evil that battle within him; Venus lovingly mourns Apollo’s death but her sorrow lacks redemptive force; Mercury possesses seeds of magical wisdom, but he can no longer be a psychopomp for humankind.

In the last ritual the youngest of the planetary figures, the Virginal Moon, is granted a vision of the forthcoming New Aeon. It appears redemptive when “the spirit of the Infinite All, the great Pan, tears asunder the veil and displays the hope of humanity, the Crowned Child of the Future.” This “Crowned Child” was Horus in his form of Ra-Hoor-Khuit.

Through his Rites Crowley was cautiously previewing his religion of Thelema without disclosing The Book of the Law or his vocation as its Prophet. Considering the mixed reception which the religion later received some would think him justified. Those accepting Thelema most probably agree with the Rites of Eleusis: the old gods had lost their virility and a new one was needed. A.G.H.


Suster, Gerald. The Legacy of the Beast: The Life, Work and Influence of Aleister Crowley. York Beach, ME. Samuel Weiser. 1989. pp. 209-210