But was the cultural phenomenon of the “grey alien”, with its unnatural, eerie features, made famous through a stolen depiction of a drawing based on an entity an occultist artist contacted in 1918?
To answer this question we have to look at the works of two men – Aleister Crowley around 1918 and Whitely Strieber in the 1980s.
Aleister Crowley was one of the most well-known occultists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and possibly of modern times. The English occultist, ceremonial magician and painter was a savvy self-promoter and self-styled himself as “The Beast 666”. Crowley wrote numerous textbooks about occultism, as well as founding several occult fraternities.
In 1919, Aleister Crowley drew a portrait titled “Lam”. It is widely believed that Lam represents a “Grey Alien”, which Crowley contacts during a “magickal” operation known as “The Amalantrah Working”. The Amalantrah Working is a series of visions and trance communications which took place in 1918.
Crowley’s Lam has also been associated with the drawing of Aiwass. One (1) definition of Aiswass is:
“An alleged superhuman intelligence contacted by Aleister Crowley in 1904, Aiwass dedicated to Crowley a work called ‘Liber AL’, or ‘Book of the Law’, which prophesied wars and revolutions leading to the collapse of Christian civilizations.”
The Grey Aliens
Crowley’s portrait of Lam is certainly representative of the grey aliens we are familiar with today. As Daniel Boudillion writes in a report titled “Aleister Crowley’s Lam and the Little Grey Men”:
“The ‘grey aliens’, slight-bodied, big-headed, large-dark-eyed manikin creatures are primarily an American phenomena. And, it is interesting to note that all the Lam workings were done in America.”
Grey aliens became particularly prevalent in the 1980s. The prevalence of these wide-eyed creatures reached greater heights through a book by Whitley Strieber known as Communion.
Whitley Strieber is an American writer who was born in 1945, two years after Crowley had died. As well as his horror novels, The Hunger and The Wolfen, Strieber is best known for Communion, a non-fiction account of his alleged experiences with alien entities.
In Communion (1987), Strieber retells the story of his perceived abduction by non-human beings from his cabin in New York in 1985. The author refers to his abductors as “the visitors” and refuses to conclude they were aliens and instead poses the possibility that they could exist in his mind.
What’s particularly interesting is the front cover of Communion, which bears uncanny resemblance to Crowley’s Lam. With its huge dark eyes, large and egg-shaped head, the drawing of the grey alien on Communion’s front cover became a cultural phenomenon. As Daniel Boudillion writes:
“The greys appear eerily similar to La, with the exception of Lam not having the large insectoid wraparound eyes reported of the greys.”
But was the drawing that is still widely representative of how aliens from outer space are perceived today nothing more than a stolen meme from Crowley’s old occult writings?
Though it’s not just the Lam-esque drawing that hints toward the idea that Strieber might have been an avid reader of Crowley’s work.
Cultural Phenomenon or Idea Theft?
In the (2) Journal of Possible Paradigms, author John Carter reflects on the work of Strieber. Carter recalls reading an interview with Strieber in the early 1990s when he talked of an urban legend about himself and his son’s friend getting lost in a strange part of town which they had never been to before. Carter points out that the same story is in Aleister Crowley’s Confessions, which was written 50 years earlier.
Then again, it could be that the resemblance of Strieber’s egg-shaped grey alien on the front cover of Communion to Crowley’s Lam was nothing more than a coincidence. We could also give these two savvy self-promoters the benefit of the doubt and believe that their drawings of the alien-like creatures were the product of their encounter with non-human beings and that extra-terrestrial creatures really do have the big heads, no hair, small mouths and extremely large opaque black eyes void of an iris or pupil.
As for Crawley’s urban legend about getting lost in a strange part of town being copied by Strieber, since dreaming or worrying about being lost is (3) extremely common, Strieber’s account of a similar incident might not necessarily have been stolen from Aleister Crawley.
As Top Secret Writers has (4) explored before, there is a lot of money to be made through retelling experiences of alien encounters. Could it also be possible that Whitely Strieber’s reported experience of which he thought he was abducted by aliens from his cabin in New York and his extra-terrestrial drawing that became a cultural phenomenon was deliberately stolen from Aleister Crawley as a means of making Strieber both famous and rich?
References & Image Credits:
(1) Blasted Tower
(4) TSW: Abductee Betty Hill Expected Millions for Alien Story
(5) Wikipedia: Whitley Strieber
(6) Wikipedia: Grey Alien
(7) Wikipedia: Aleister Crowley