The religion of Thelema was established in 1904 when Aleister Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis, also known as The Book of the Law. The Law of Thelema can be summed up in two phrases from Liber Legis (as it is also called):
* “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (AL
* “Love is the law, love under will” (AL I:57).
This Law is not to be interpreted as a license to indulge every passing whim, but rather as a mandate to discover one's True Will and accomplish it; leaving others to do the same in their own unique ways. For most Thelemites (as followers of Thelema call themselves), the primary goal is to discover and perform their True Will—a process called The Great Work. This True Will can be considered a person's deepest self or true nature, and is the underlying guiding force in their life. By arriving at a conscious understanding of this Will, the Adept attains fulfillment and greater freedom from life's restriction. Moreover, because no two Wills can truly be in conflict, it is a pathway leading to Universal Brotherhood.
The cosmology of Thelema as established in The Book of the Law involves three principles personified by three personalities: the infinitely extended, identified by the sky goddess Nuit; the atomic point, expressed by Hadit, the Winged Serpent of Light; and the new current in the present Aeon, the solar Ra-Hoor-Khuit (or Horus). Other important godforms in Thelema are Babalon, Chaos, and Choronzon. For many Thelemites, the central eccleasitical right is The Gnostic Mass, technically called Liber XV (Book 15), written by Aleister Crowley in 1913.
A major cultural theme among Thelemites is the idea of personal liberty and freedom to fulfill their Will. No one can identify the True Will of another, so that the path of discovery is an individual endeavor. Generally speaking, the set of practices used to do this fall under the term Magick (see below). Other themes found in Thelema include the idea that man is an inherently divine creature, that Union or Love is the basis of the Great Work, and that with the freedom of True Will comes with great responsibility.
Practices such as proselytizing and conversion are strongly discouraged, since Thelemites hold that interpretation of The Book of the Law is a task for the individual. At the same time, many undertake the duty of promulgating the principles of Liber Legis, thereby spreading the Law of Liberty. The charge of the Thelemite is not to battle against an evil spirit (e.g. Satan), but to fight the actual cultural forces of superstition, tyranny, and oppression in the name of the Freedom of Man.
Some of the central interests of Thelema includes astrology, the Qabalah (or Kabbalah), yoga, the Tarot (especially the Thoth Tarot), initiation, meditation, astral projection, sex magick, and banishing. There are many organizations founded on the principles of Thelema, including Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC or The Gnostic Catholic Church), the A.'.A.'. and later incarnations of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Aleister Crowley said in Book 4 that magick is "the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with the Will." The addition of the terminal "k" distinguishes this aspect of the practice from that of stage magic or other counterfeit forms. In the most basic sense, magick is any intentional, conscious act done in concert with one's True Will. If a woman is seeking a job and writes a well-crafted resume and mails it out, she has essentially performed magick. However, for many Thelemites, magick is most often used in the context of inner change, for the purpose of increasing skill, well-being, or spiritual attainment. The key to this kind of change is self-knowledge, epitomized by the ancient Greek maxim: Know Thyself.
This is why the practice of magick often falls under the heading of the Occult. The root meaning of this word is "hidden" or "secret", and this is often the task of the magician: to discover her own hidden Will so that she may perform it. For this type of effort, Crowley describes the primary elements (both symbolic and practical) within the system called Western Ceremonial Magick:
For Crowley, this "burning up" is the process of the magician removing all illusions and false notions about herself and the universe. It can be equated with the guru or Buddhist monk who strives to destroy his own ego so that he might become one with God or the Universe. Within the frame of Thelema, this is descibed as the process known as attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of one's Holy Guardian Angel, which Crowley believed to be the central goal of every Thelemite. He claimed that magick used for any other purpose was Black Magick, and should be avoided.
"The Magician works in a Temple; the Universe, which is (be it remembered!) conterminous with himself. In this temple a Circle is drawn upon the floor for the limitation of his working. This circle is protected by divine names, the influences on which he relies to keep out hostile thoughts. Within the circle stands an Altar, the solid basis on which he works, the foundation of all. Upon the Altar are his Wand, Cup, Sword, and Pantacle, to represent his Will, his Understanding, his Reason, and the lower parts of his being, respectively. On the Altar, too, is a phial of Oil, surrounded by a Scourge, a Dagger, and a Chain, while above the Altar hangs a Lamp. The Magician wears a Crown, a single Robe, and a Lamen, and he bears a Book of Conjurations and a Bell.
The oil consecrates everything that is touched with it; it is his aspiration; all acts performed in accordance with that are holy. The scourge tortures him; the dagger wounds him; the chain binds him. It is by virtue of these three that his aspiration remains pure, and is able to consecrate all other things. He wears a crown to affirm his lordship, his divinity; a robe to symbolize silence, and a lamen to declare his work. The book of spells or conjurations is his magical record, his Karma. In the East is the Magick Fire, in which all burns up at last. (Magick, Book 4)
This is far from the only tradition available to the modern Thelemite. There are many schools of magick, including: Chaos magick, Goetia, Enochian, Shamanism, & Witchcraft. Modern magick is founded on the ancient principles and practices of Hermeticism, alchemy, and astrology. Magick has found its way into other modern traditions, most notably Wicca and Paganism.
Copyright © 2005 Scarlet Woman
Lodge, OTO. All rights reserved.
The name "Thelemapedia" is a trademark of Scarlet Woman Lodge, OTO.