Weiser Book Club (#WBC3) – The Diary of a Drug Fiend by Aleister Crowley
It is easy to see why The Diary of a Drug Fiend helped to spark the Crowley renaissance in the 1960’s and 70’s. Sex, drugs and a rock ‘n roll lifestyle without the big hair or bad guitar solos. Yet despite what initially seems like a glamorization of narcotic-induced licentiousness (and let’s face it – as the binge progresses the narrative and even the writing itself improves) the story turns in Chapter IX: The Gatto Fritto.
I have set down how the action of the drugs had partially stripped off the recent layers of memory. It had achieved a parallel result much more efficiently on the moral plane. The toil of countless generations of evolution had been undone in a month. ..No action of violence or lust but seemed a necessary outlet for our energies!
We said nothing to each other about this. It was, in fact, deeper and darker than could be conveyed by articulate speech.
There are hints of a moral shift before this – frequent references to insanity and the bestial nature of human physicality, and by the final chapter in Book I (Chapter X: The Bubble Bursts) Peter and Lou have lost everything, even their love for one another.
Contrast this with the unbridled exultation of drug use in Chapter VIII: Vedere Napoli E Poi – Pro Patria – Mori, and a complex and morally ambiguous philosophy emerges.
She offered me a pinch of heroin with the air of communnicating some exquisitely esoteric sacrament…We took it not because we needed it; but because the act of consummation was, so to speak, an act of religion.
It was the very fact that it was not an act of necessity which made it an act of piety.
How does circumstance change the way Peter and Lou process their own drug experience? Is it only withdrawal that debases them at the end of Chapter X, or is Crowley trying to convey something else? No fair using what I’m sure you all know about Crowley’s personal history with heroin addiction or his treatises on ritual drug use. How well does the narrative (so far) convey the author’s intentions?
*Interesting Fact: Crowley wrote The Diary of a Drug Fiend in 28 days – the average length of time required for in-house drug rehabilitation.