CROWLEY, Aleister




Author Tags: Famous Visitor

"Vancouver presents no interest to the casual visitor. It is severely Scotch. Its beauties lie in its surroundings." -- Aleister Crowley

According to Ekstasis Editions publisher Richard Olfason, the bisexual English occultist and poet Aleister Crowley (October 12, 1875 – 1 December 1, 1947) wrote the following passage about his visits to Canada and British Columbia in Crowley's Confessions:

I was in some doubt as the whether to go to America via Honolulu or by the northern Pacific route to Vancouver. I longed to see Oahu again, and yet I felt it a sort of duty to cover fresh ground. While I hesitated, fate decided. The last berth for San Francisco via the Sandwich Islands was sold over my head. Alas! --- had I only known! A quarter of an hour's delay caused me to miss what might have been the most dramatic moment of my life. The ship I should have sailed by left Honolulu in due course and fetched up four days later outside the golden Gate --- to find San Francisco a raging flower of flame.

I sailed on April 21st by The Empress of India, took a flying glance at Japan and put out into the Pacific.

A savage sea without a sail,
...Grey gulphs and green aglittering.

We never sighted the slightest suggestion of life all the way to Vancouver, twelve days of chilly boredom, though there was a certain impressiveness in the very dreariness and desolation. There was a hint of the curious horror that emptiness always evokes, whether it is a space of starless night or a bleak and barren waste of land. The one exception is the Sahara Desert where, for some reason that I cannot name, the suggestion is not in the least of vacancy and barrenness, but rather of some subtle and secret spring of life.

Vancouver presents no interest to the casual visitor. It is severely Scotch. Its beauties lie in its surroundings.

I was very disappointed with the Rockies, of which I had heard such eloquent encomiums. They are singularly shapeless; and their proportions are unpleasing. There is too much colourless and brutal base; too little snowy shapely summit. As for the ghastly monotony of the wilderness beyond them, through Calgary and Winnipeg right on to Toronto --- words fortunately fail. The manners of the people are crude and offensive. They seem to resent the existence of civilized men; and show it by gratuitous insolence, which they mistake for a mark of manly independence. The whole country and its people are somehow cold and ill-favoured. The character of the mountains struck me as significant. Contrast them with the Alps where every peak is ringed by smug hamlets, hearty and hospitable, and every available approach is either a flowery meadow, a pasture pregnant with peaceful flocks and herds, or a centre of cultivation. In the Rockies, barren and treeless plains are suddenly blocked by ugly walls of rock. Nothing less inviting can be imagined. Contrast them again with the Himalayas. There we find no green Alps, no clustering cottages; but their stupendous sublimity takes the mind away from any expectation or desire of thoughts connected with humanity. The Rockies have no majesty; they do not elevate the mind to contemplation of Almighty God any more than they warm the heart by seeming sentinels to watch over the habitations of one's fellow men.

Toronto as a city carries out the idea of Canada as a country. It is a calculated crime both against the aspirations o the soul and the affections of the heart. I had been fed vilely on the train. I thought I would treat myself to a really first-class dinner. But all I could get was high-tea --- they had never heard the name of wine! Of all the loveless, lifeless lands that writhe beneath the wrath of God, commend me to Canada! (I understand that the eastern cities, having known French culture, are comparatively habitable. Not having been there I cannot say.)