Friday, July 26, 2019

Yellow Journalism at its Finest

Mysterious Universe is not exactly known for reasonable and accurate reporting of events. And by "not exactly" I mean "not at all." The website is the home of various articles on the weird and potentially paranormal. It features hyperbolic commentary that is fun to read and which also often falls short of this pesky little thing called "truth." This article, though, is one of the worst examples that I have come across. Follow my section-by-section commentary here to find out why.

Back in April, the former home of occultist Aleister Crowley went up for sale. Boleskine House, a reportedly cursed Loch Ness estate where Crowley famously conducted Satanist rituals and black magick ceremonies between 1899 and 1913, has been the subject of lore and legend for decades partly due to the reputation of its infamous former owner and partly due to strange events reported at the site.

Much of this is the basic boilerplate that shows up in every article about Aleister Crowley. He was a Satanist. He performed "black magick," whatever that is. Weird and disturbing events are reported at places associated with him. But I dare the author to get in touch with somebody like Aaron Leitch and ask whether the Abramelin operation (which is the magical operation Crowley actually started at Boleskine House) is "Satanist black magick." I would pay to eavesdrop on that conversation, because I expect it would be hilarious.

After Crowley sold the house in 1913, its next owner committed suicide with a shotgun. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page then bought the home, and the caretaker hired to oversee the estate reported witnessing strange occurrences that seemed to suggest Boleskine House was haunted or otherwise cursed.

Again, classic sensationalism. Note that the "strange occurrences" are never really detailed. Also, mental illness and suicide are a lot more common than many people realize. One suicide at a house is not exactly a trend. Jimmy Page owned the house for years and he's rich and successful, so totally not cursed.

After Boleskine House went up for sale earlier this year, a group of three unnamed investors paid a total of £500,000 ($625,252 USD) for the property and surrounding gardens. According to The Scotsman, a new non-profit organization called the Boleskine Foundation has been established to restore the estate and is now in talks with Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), the religious organization led by Crowley in the early 20th century, to bring occult rituals back to Boleskine House.

Ordo Templi Orientis is an organization devoted to the Thelema religion which borrows heavily from Masonic lore and ethics but has a heavier emphasis on mysticism and magick in order to “realize the divine in the human.” There’s apparently some weird sex stuff involved, too. There always is.

People who spend their time watching sketchy YouTube videos have this idea that the OTO is basically a nonstop orgy. Spoiler alert - it's not. Just because an organization supports sexual freedom - which is a very good thing - that doesn't mean that OTO events basically consist of "weird sex stuff." The OTO is in fact a lot like Masonry that admits people of all genders and has a lot more esotericism, magick, and mysticism than you are likely to find in a Masonic lodge. People joining for the alleged "weird sex stuff" are usually profoundly disappointed by what they find going on in the organization.

The Boleskine Foundation has announced that along with the new ownership, the site will now “promote events and activities that facilitate health and wellness such as meditation and yoga as well as education on Thelema, the spiritual legacy forwarded by previous Boleskine House owner, Aleister Crowley.” The house will be open to the public for much of the year, but will close on certain dates for special events and rituals related to Thelema. No word on when the weird sex stuff is happening yet. Stay tuned.

So this is really what I was talking about in the opening paragraph. The headline says Boleskine House is to "Reopen as a Sex Magick Retreat" and in the last line of the article the author explains that he has no information whatsoever that such a thing is actually happening. This isn't just yellow journalism, it's called a "lie." Put up a super-clickbaity headline and then, only at the end of the article, admit that what's in the headline isn't actually true.

As for the new owners being willing to work with OTO to help preserve Crowley's (actual) legacy is a good and happy thing. I look forward to visiting myself once the site is restored and open. I wish I would have visited years ago - there was a period of a few years where the place was operated as a bed-and-breakfast - but never got around to it and then the fire happened.

I won't make that same mistake again, and when I do go I expect I will be able to report back on the complete absence of "weird sex stuff."

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