Aug 20, 2016

Moore & Coulthart and... the lost Crowley

Detail from John Coulthart's illustration for the Crowley project.
The full illustration is available here.
In the past few days I found by chance on The Orphan site a reference to an Alan Moore's unrealized project to be illustrated by artist John Coulthart focused on... Aleister Crowley.
Surprised by the discover, I contacted Coulthart to know more about it. 
In the following you can read his feedback posted on this blog with the artist's permission. Thank you, John! :)

John Coulthart: The information about Alan's story that ended up on the web page was a little brief compared to the explanations I sent to Brendan via email. I've tracked down the details I wrote originally:

    This is something I was working on with Alan Moore in 1996 which Alan was forced to abandon. The impetus was that Creation Books were going to be doing an anthology of stories related to
Aleister Crowley. Alan was happy to give me the opportunity to illustrate it since our planned Yuggoth Cultures collaboration (also for Creation) fell apart after he left the MS in a London taxi. I forget the title of this story (I'll have to check all these details), it was an odd phrase from Crowley's The Book of the Law but Alan had seven sections planned with each section to be divided into a set number of paragraphs. I forget the number but each paragraph would contain exactly 156 words since 156 was the occult number--derived from Dr John Dee, I think--which formed the basis of the piece. Oh, I remember now...there were seven sections because that's a number of Babalon, the Scarlet Woman; Crowley called all his wives and mistresses Scarlet Women so each section would examine Crowley through the experience of a different woman. We only did the first part which concerns Crowley first wife, Rose Kelly, and their experiences in Cairo in 1904. Alan leant me his Franz von Bayros books since he wanted the art style to be in the manner of what he calls Von Bayros's "fractal pornography". The image is from a reduced photocopy of the very large ink drawing I made which to date has never been published anywhere. There are many Crowley-specific references encoded into it. The original is so large I'm not sure it would have made a good illustration, much of the detail would vanish. But I like the drawing even though it lacks the elegance of Von Bayros's style. That's always the problem with pastiche: you often capture the details but miss the essence of the artist's work.

    [...]

    If you need more detail about Alan's side of the story, I think the whole piece was going to be called "The ill-ordered house in the Victorious City", from Crowley's The Book of the Law. Seven is a number of Babalon, so too is the number 156. The 156th section of The Book of the Law (chapter III, para, 11) includes that phrase. Alan used the number 156 as a basis for the entire story to the extent of writing it in paragraphs of 156 words each. I forget how many paragraphs there were. This was obviously a difficult task which is one reason why the story didn't get finished. The central part of the drawing is contained by a grid of 156 squares.

    Another point: the Rose Kelly sequence is a nasty one--Crowley assaults his wife then forces her to look at the rotting corpse of their daughter. Although Alan only wrote this one section he said the subsequent sections would treat the women better, for their sake, not for Crowley's. The intention was to turn the spotlight from Crowley onto the women who gave him so much yet received little thanks in return. Rose Kelly ended up in an asylum.

I still have a fax or photocopy of the text somewhere, I think, although it's Alan's copyright, of course, so I can't do anything with it.


Check also The Orphan page.
Rose Kelly and Aleister Crowley.

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