What, exactly, is Crowley doing on Earth?
Several things, actually. In order to serve the interests of his employers Below, Crowley devotes most of his effort to injecting a little bit of evil into as many human souls as he can. To quote Hastur, Crowley's most important job is "to secure souls for our master." Said master being Satan.
Crowley's main talent seems to be temptation, which I guess has been his modus operandi ever since the Garden of Eden incident. As Aziraphale even tells him on page 41, "You tempt people. You're good at it." But then again, within the timeframe of the actual novel, Crowley never actually tempts anyone save for the homicidal paintgun players, and even then, no real effort is ever made on the part of Crowley to convince these guys that they want to kill each other. Crowley senses that Nigel Tompkins and the others want real guns, and he just changes their paintguns into real guns without so much as a second thought. Just like that, no questions asked, no insidious hissing into the ears of hesitating combatants. Crowley didn't have to tempt anyone into wanting anything - he just gave them what he knew they already wanted. For free, apparently... although dealing with a demon, you can never be exactly sure.
The only other character that Crowley ever tempts is Aziraphale. And even then, we're not exactly sure if he's trying to tempt Aziraphale into doing something for him, or if he's just teasing for fun, or if he's actually making a desperate plea for help from his friend. The line is blurred.
Crowley's second talent seems to be utilizing modern industry and technology to to frustrate, taint, and twist human souls. Examples include his manipulation of the shape of the M25 motorway and the cellular phone network in Central London, and the influence that he exerts over television programming. Crowley rejects the traditional method of concentrating all his effort on damning one soul at a time, and instead uses innovative techniques to tarnish thousands or even millions of souls with a single stroke. "With five billion people in the world you couldn't pick the buggers off one by one anymore; you had to spread your effort" (page 9).
Crowley's third and final mission, albeit a brief one, is to deliver the Antichrist to human parents and then watch over the boy's upbringing. In this regard, Crowley employs several underlings (henchmen?) instead of directly involving himself. He orders around human servants, such as the Satanic nuns of the Chattering Order. He also seems able to command servants who are, well, not quite human. He sends the demonic Nanny Ashtoreth and then later the tutor, Mr. Harrison, to influence the boy Warlock as he grows up.
Actually, we don't know for sure whether Crowley was actually ordering around others when he employed Nanny Ashtoreth and the like. Aries writes:
"I'm 98% sure (as sure as I can be without actually asking Neil and Terry) that Nanny Ashtoreth and Mr Harrison are one and the same person: Crowley himself. Just as Mr Francis the gardener and Mr Cortese are the same person, Aziraphale... It's what I thought when I read it. I just took it for granted. And it amused me immensely to imagine Crowley assuming a female form for five or so years :) ... We know that they can change their appearances (Crowley's little 'Maggot Moment')... *shrugs* I just thought it was the most likely. Crowley doesn't seem the type to sub-let jobs as important as influencing the Antichrist. Andit is also a kind of game/competition between he and Aziraphale, so I would've thought that he'd prefer to give things that personal touch. :) ... don't think there is anything definitive! It's just the way I read it :)"
Alex disagrees, however:
"You mention someone's theory that the influences in the Antichrist's life, are actually Aziraphale and Crowley in disguise. Personally, I think they were calling in reinforcements. The gardener is definitely St. Francis of Assisi (if I spelled that right). And, well, look at Aziraphale and Crowley. Influencing the Antichrist is a full-time job, requiring constant effort and maintaining an act day after day and year after year. Neither one of them would put that kind of effort out if he could avoid it, which they easily can by putting in requests Above or Below. Which leads me to believe they got some of the big guns out of retirement."
The novel actually doesn't provide any information that would cinch the case either way. Aziraphale makes one cryptic remark about the matter:
"It's my good influence," he beamed. "Or rather, credit where credit's due, that of my little team."
Knowing Aziraphale's character, he could be referring to his "little team" of the gardener and Mr. Cortese, who actually are seperate entities who take orders from him... Or he could be making a modest, self-disparaging joke in the sense that his "little team" refers to the different forms that he assumes when he tries to influence Warlock. And we still don't have any idea which of the two options is true for Crowley, either.
It would be interesting if Crowley had the power to order others around, because his position and relative rank in Hell seems to be pretty low. In fact, he has practically zero rank when compared to Dukes like Hastur and Ligur. As noted on page 230, "Hastur was a Duke of Hell. Crowley wasn't even a local counsellor."
A Brief Aside: My American paperback edition of the book says "counsellor" on this page, although Daegaer informs me that the correct spelling should be "councillor," as it is in the British edition of the book. Is this simply a difference between British and American spellings of the same word? No, it actually is a mistake. Daegaer writes: "I think this must be a misunderstanding of the US editors rather than a difference in spelling (although the idea of Crowley as a therapist is strangely terrifying :-)"
Regardless of how little power Crowley weilds among other demons, he does manage to exert a considerable amount of influence over the lives of humans on Earth. In addition to taking credit for "developing" the cities of Manchester and Glasgow, he also funds the Witchfinder Army, and throughout history has schmoozed with such influential minds as Leonardo DaVinci. Not bad for a guy who isn't even a local councillor down Below.
Important Note: Page numbers in reference to quotations from the book refer to the 1996 Ace mass-market paperback edition. Disclaimer: Crowley, Aziraphale, and Good Omens are owned and copyrighted by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Excerpts and quotes from the novel Good Omens used throughout this site are reproduced without legal permission, for which I can only hang my head sheepishly and apologize. However, this is a FANSITE, meant in the name of fun, and not intended to make a profit. The lovely model in this site's header graphic is an endangered Eastern Indigo Snake, in a photograph courtesy of SeaWorld.org. Brushes used in the header graphic are courtesy of Paper Flowers.