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  Thelema Is . . .
General Thelema Posted by Mordecai Shapiro on February 19, 2001 @ 07:16 PM
from the if-only-you-nu dept.

Occasionally I am in a social context where someone who's just heard of Thelema asks me what it is. Of course I always say whatever seems proper to me at the time. Recently I said, "Thelema is the religion that Aleister Crowley founded as opposed to the religion that he thought he'd founded." At other times I've alluded to Gnosticism and Jnana Yoga, or to Rabelais and Nietzsche, or to the revelation of John of Patmos and the operations of John Dee.

I can't help but wonder how other Thelemites describe Thelema to non-Thelemites. How do you define Thelema?



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    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Amalgamated Persona on Monday February 19, @07:36PM
    The problem I have with defining Thelema is that the doctrine does not communicate well. If I were to define Protestant Christianity, I would just say, "You believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that he died so that everyone's sins might be forgiven." If you say that, then the person has a vague idea of what's going on, even if the underlying meaning is still hidden.

    In Thelema, you might say, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will." The problem is that without some amount of interpretation, these sentences are vague and even contradictory. Of course, a Thelemite is not supposed to comment on the book, so that's out.

    I suppose you could say that Thelema is a religion engendered in 1904 whose main holy book, The Book of the Law, revealed the new aspects of the holy trinity, emphasized strength and joy over eternal suffering, and reformed man's position in relation to God and God's Will. That might work, but it's a sticky matter.

    So, relating the dogma is too abstract and describing the book seems to miss the mark...maybe it's just best to give the person a copy of Liber AL and say, "Read."

    Quite frankly, I just tell people that I'm a Taoist.

    • Re: Thelema Is . . .
      by Mordecai Shapiro on Monday February 19, @11:24PM
      >Quite frankly, I just tell people that I'm a Taoist.

      There's no problem with that, but if you discuss Thelema at all the issue is likely to arise from time to time. On those occasions I think your "Thelema is a religion engendered in 1904 whose main holy book, The Book of the Law, revealed the new aspects of the holy trinity, emphasized strength and joy over eternal suffering, and reformed man's position in relation to God and God's Will." might be entirely appropriate.


    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Shader XX on Monday February 19, @10:53PM
    ...i am not sure exactly how to define Thelema,
    i would rather just let it be part of my essence,
    i spent three years in the OTO in Berkeley, and then i (we) left because, of what? politics, power
    trips ?...i still don't really understand what happened, exactly, but it effected my whole life,
    we put ourselves into it for all we could, and yet
    that did not stop the downward spiril that forced us to leave, i think people become corrupt, no matter what mask they put on, if Thelema is going to become or is just another religion, then there are going to be the incarnated bishops and cardinals, to play the role of Hierophant, some people seem to need that, i feel like an old soul,
    and seem to remember many lives being persecuted
    for my free thoughts, my poetic way, i am still being attacked for being a poet, by arrogant fools
    that only understand power, so if that is what Thelema is then i will fight it just like i fought christians, i am not a follower, i am not a leader, but i am a fighter, a psychic warrior, i like a lot of things Crowley said, and i was drawn to his being, for what reasons i still don't know,
    but "Do what thou wilt"...to me is a perscription
    to write, carve, mold, paint as i will, and if some smug ass dosn't like it, they don't have to read it or look at it, but i will defend my right to write as i will, with all my will, and that to me is Thelema!...not an easy sort of knowledge!

    Re: Thelema Is...
    by Virbius on Monday February 19, @11:23PM
    I'd have to say that the reference to Rabalais and his little monastery of "Do what thou wilt" is essential, though when trying to explain Thelema i rarely have such presence of mind. usually when I am presented with such an opportunity I am caught off-guard, like a doe in the headlamps.

    It seems to me a fundamental difference between Thelema and nearly all other established "religions", philosophies or appraches to living is that Thelema stresses "Love under Will". In other words, my self discovery is an essential part of the formula. So essential, in fact, that love itself is less important.

    I'd also say, when describing Thelema and the works of Aleister Crowley to the "uninitiated", that the very name itself implies the sanctity of the individual will. Liber Oz being a very harsh, no bullshit exegesis.

    Otherwise i'd say Thelema is pretty much like all other organized religions: It is filled with dark sayings that in all likelihood even the authors themselves didn't understand, it is highly prone to misinterpretation, the humor and brevity is often lost, and it is crusted over with a symbiosis of fundamentalism.

    "Any act whatsoever can teach all things, provided one sees who it is that is acting"
    - Brother Tom Merton

    • Re: Thelema Is...
      by Mordecai Shapiro on Monday February 19, @11:36PM
      Where is that Merton quote from? It is remarkably similar to one of Ramana Maharshi's teachings.


      • Re: Thelema Is...
        by Virbius on Monday February 26, @10:43PM
        I answered this by e-mail, but for the sake of those assembled the quote is from a posthumous collection of essays entitled "Love and Living", the first chapter "Learning to Live". I think that the first three sentences of this chapter have hardly a match in the english language for their clarity and depth of meaning.

        Quite Thelemic I might add.


    Re: Thelema Is...
    by Pvlvlvativs on Tuesday February 20, @06:26AM
    Hmm. You raise a good number of questions just with that comment. With all the influences from which Thelema took, its hard to understand exactly what it is; even for a practioner.

    I think the best way to define Thelema is to open up the Holy Books of Thelema and let them read. It is important that anybody who reads those books understand that it is highly interpretational and not everything is meant to be taken literally - esp. any lines concerning killing children.

    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Frater Ponderosa on Tuesday February 20, @09:44AM
    I disagree entirely with the classification of Thelema as a 'religion.' It is a principle, outlined by the phrases, 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law' and 'Love is the law, love under will.'

    'Religion,' in its barest definition, denotes a set of beliefs and practices, something which all Thelemites do not share; see, CCXX I.3 & the comment. There is also the connotation of the Holy War; Thelema is apart from that level of thinking. While indeed many Thelemites would like to maim or injure over their 'religion,' it is an antiquated method, CCXX III.59 notwithstanding. It is better to promote understanding; what men fight over is rarely religion, anyway.

    I think there is little of value in the Holy Books to the uninitiated; so much obscure language and veiled symbolism. Thelema is simple. When asked what is Thelema, I answer appropriately to the level of understanding of the questioner, usually: God is dead: you are all absolutely free.

    Anyone who understands this is on their way.

    • Re: Thelema Is . . .
      by Amalgamated Persona on Tuesday February 20, @10:42AM
      Was Christianity a religion until the ecumenical councils? I think that the only reason that Thelema might not be considered a religion is that nobody seems to know how to define it. If you cannot define something, how can you claim that you are that? How many times has someone said "I am a Thelemite," but when questioned as to what that means fallen apart?

      I've seen people claim that others aren't Thelemites or "Thelemic material," but no one seems to know what is. I think that the lack of a clear cut definition (one that works on various levels of attainment) leads to this problem.

      As for the statement that God is dead and that somehow we are given freedom by this, I have to disagree. I'm being called away by mundane matters, so I'll leave the reasoning as an exercise for the reader.


      • Re: Thelema Is . . .
        by Xnoubis on Tuesday February 20, @07:58PM
        > I disagree entirely with the classification of
        > Thelema as a 'religion.'

        I think of "religion" in the sense of "to bind again" (re+ligo), or as that which returns us to our source. The missteps of religious institutions are secondary. So I don't have much difficulty in thinking of Thelema as religion.

        > As for the statement that God is dead and that
        > somehow we are given freedom by this, I have to
        > disagree.

        I can see it either way, myself. The "death" of the paternal God can mean the empowerment of the individual, much as Nietzsche described. But the individual can also be seen as a god, a living god. In which case, denial of God can be seen as a denial of the lived sense of sacredness.

        My general definition of Thelema for newcomers goes, "'Thelema' is a spiritual and cultural movement founded on the teachings of Aleister Crowley."

        But for some of us, I think the definition goes, "Thelema means never having to say you're sorry."


        • Re: Thelema Is . . .
          by Amalgamated Persona on Tuesday February 20, @08:07PM
          > But for some of us, I think the definition goes, "Thelema means never having to say you're sorry."

          Perfect, Xnoubis, perfect. ;-)


      • Re: Thelema Is . . .
        by Frater Ponderosa on Tuesday February 20, @08:24PM
        Well met. However, the quote at the end re: God is not intended to make a statement about the quality or faculty of God. It is an example of one of the ratiocinative traps of metaphysics. The existence of God is immaterial: the rut one falls into is self-definition by religion. One becomes one's religion, so to speak; in Gurdjieffian terms one identifies with it. The statement is intended to liberate, if the Will is there.

        This is reflected by the position of Thelema. CCXX I.3 can be taken as a supreme aknowledgement of individual interpretation; in the comment when study etc. is forbidden, this can be equated to 'the tao that can be spoken is not the eternal tao.' Thus, the principle of Thelema, that there is no law beyond Do what thou wilt, while it can be expressed in religion (I might consider EGC a religion), is too sacred and ineffible to be itself a religion.

        It is not a matter of defining Thelema so much as a matter of defining religion. But that might be too far off topic. ;)


        • Re: Thelema Is . . .
          by Virbius on Tuesday February 20, @09:00PM
          > It is not a matter of defining Thelema so much
          > as a matter of defining religion. But that
          > might be too far off topic. ;)

          Maybe not...The topic of explaining Thelema to newcomers has ceased interesting me when there seems such a disparity of agreement among it's practitioners.

          This brings up an interesting term that M. Scott Peck refers to as "Pseudocommunity" (cf. "The Different Drum (On Community Building and Peace)"). Peck coined the term to define common elements of what he believed to be failing communities. One common element of these was blurry definitions of terms.

          Example: One considers Thelema to be a religion, another insists it is not, yet neither agrees on the definition of "Religion".

          My opinion/definition is along the same lines as Xonubis': "Religare" to bind or reconnect. Synonyms: Yoke or Yoga. Emphasised point made at the beginnings of Ch.'s I and XXI of "Magick": "The supreme goal of all ritual and therefore all magick is the uniting of the microcosm and macrocosm, or Union with God" in my opinion define Thelema and the teachings of Crowley as the very penultimate definition of "Religion", although the point may be lost on those with different definitions of the terms.


          • Re: Thelema Is . . .
            by Pat McG on Tuesday February 20, @09:19PM
            Funny, I recently had dinner with a journalist friend, and the topic of spirituality came up, and I tried to define Thelema to him.

            Being a novice at all this, I talked about the two concepts that have made the most impact on me and my life, being "Every man and every woman is a star" and "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

            We spoke about gnosticism and Will; he immediately asked me if this was the same stuff that Aleister Crowley had written about at the turn of the century. "I tried to read 'Magick in Theory and Practice'," says this graduate student in philosophy, "and found it a bit... turgid."

            The conversation went on -- he sent me e-mail a week or so ago that he had picked up the Book of the Law from Amazon and ready it through. So...


            • Re: Thelema Is . . .
              by Shader XX on Wednesday February 21, @03:44AM
              quote from Magick in theory; page 343 ..14th line down:

              Yet he would be wrong in an infinite number of ways. There are therefore Aleph-Zero possibilities that at any moment a man may find himself totally transformed. And it may be that our present dazzeled bewilderment is due to our recognition of the existance of a new dimension of thought, which
              seems so "inscrutably infinite" and "absurd" and"immoral", ect.-because we have not studied it long enough to appreciate that it's laws are identical with our own, though extended to new conceptions.

              there, with that one paragraph, i find myself in the
              infinite number of possibilities, transformed!...
              all the rest is a curse, be it to the aeons, hell!

              now bring it ON!...XX


    • Re: Thelema Is . . .
      by Gerald del Campo on Saturday March 03, @01:57AM
      Many Thelemites have a knee-jerk reaction to the word "religion" probably due to the way Christianity has manifested in the world these last 2000. But then we have to ask ourselves if we wouldn't be the same way, or even worse, if we were the dominating paradigm today. Think about those people that call themselves "Thelemites" and ask yourself if you want to trust your life in their hands.

      Having said that: I am a Thelemite.

      A religion must fulfill certain criteria before it can be called "religion." It must have its deities, celebrations and beliefs. Thelema qualifies.

      Thelemic Deities

      Thelema is a universal philosophy or way of life. The religion of Thelema proposes the idea that physical existence begins with the interaction of two metaphysical principles. In the most prominent Thelemic Holy Book, The Book of The Law, these ideas are given form by association with the ancient Egyptian deities known as Nuit, the goddess of the night sky who represents unlimited possibility, and her lover Hadit, who represents the individual experience and is characterized as a Winged Serpent. The union of these two deities produces a phenomenon, which is identified with the Hawk Headed god: Ra-Hoor-Khuit, who represents the karmic law which dominates life.

      Some Thelemic Tenets

      One of the most significant characteristics of the Thelemic doctrine is that it recognizes that these same phenomena also manifests in various forms throughout all cultures and religious beliefs. Therefore, the Thelemic religion holds that all beliefs and religions are mirrors that reflect these metaphysical ideas to their adherents, and consequently, many Thelemites spend their lives seeking out these ideas by the study of comparative religion.

      The Law of Thelema perpetuates the idea of a Personal Supreme Deity, which holds the reality constructs of each individual's spirituality, and reflects each individual's Gnosis. Thelemic doctrine encourages individuals to draw on a personal and recognizable God/spark, which is individual to them, and which reflects their own True Purpose and Truth. The discovery of this Supreme Truth is referred to as "Knowing Ones True Will." This concept goes to further reinforce the idea that Thelemites should study the symbols of all religions and philosophies, since doing so will lead them to a greater understanding of ones self. Should a Thelemite end up on a path that is not congenial with his or her True Nature there are consequences to face. One who subscribes to the Christian doctrine might equate this suffering with "hell," or a separation from God.

      Thelemic Practices

      Prayer, invocation and evocation, meditation and comparative religion studies are all part of Thelemic religious practice. There is the blessing of food, the adorations which correspond to the four stations of the sun, yoga, and the preparation for holy space.

      Like many Western religions, the Thelemite celebrates rights of passage, such as Baptism for Birth, Confirmation at puberty, Marriage, and finally, death. The birth, life and death of various Thelemic Saints are also celebrated, such as Francois Rabelais who was first to have coined the term "Thelema."

      So the question hinges on whether Crowley saw Thelema as a religion. He appears to have thought so:

      "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law! Refuse this, and fall under the curse of destiny. Divide will against itself, the result is impotence and strife, strife-in-vain. The Law condemns no man. Accept the Law, and everything is lawful. Refuse the Law, you put yourself beyond its pale. It is the Law that Jesus Christ, or rather the Gnostic tradition of which the Christian-legend is a degradation, attempted to teach; but nearly every word he said was misinterpreted and garbled by his enemies, particularly by those who called themselves his disciples. In any case the Aeon was not ready for a Law of Freedom. Of all his followers only St. Augustine appears to have got even a glimmer of what he meant.

      A further attempt to teach to his law was made through Sir Edward Kelly at the end of the sixteenth century. The bondage of orthodoxy prevented his words from being heard, or understood. In many other ways has the spirit of truth striven with man, and partial shadows of this truth have been the greatest allies of science and philosophy. Only now has success been attained. A perfect vehicle was found, in the message enshrined in a jeweled casket; that is to say, in a book with the injunction ‘Change not as much as a style of a letter.’ This book is reproduced in facsimile, in order that there shall be no possibility of corrupting it. Here, then, we have an absolutely fixed and definite standpoint for the foundation of an universal religion.

      We have the Key to the resolution of all human problems, both philosophical and practical. If we have seemed to labor at proof, our love must be the excuse for our infirmity; for we know well that which is written in the Book:

      ‘Success is your proof.’


      • Re: Thelema Is . . .
        by Mordecai Shapiro on Sunday March 04, @09:25PM
        >We have the Key to the resolution of all human problems, both philosophical and practical.

        Oh no! Not that planetary suicide scheme again!


    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Malgwyn on Friday February 23, @02:24AM
    A Thelemite is one who accepts the core statement Do what thou wilt.

    To choose to be a Thelemite is the supreme ideological statement, it surpasses any other affiliation one could have. Ethnicity, caste, religion and philosophy are all of lesser importance. It is the insistence that the will of the individual surpasses all other considerations except where it impinges on anothers.

    I am wary of anyone who claims to be endowed with the ability to tell a "true Thelemite" from a "false Thelemite". One is a Thelemite by choosing to be one. It is entirely a personal decision. To be un-Thelemic(sic) is to violate the will of another, thereby surrendering one's own. One can disagree with, or even ignore Crowley's oeuvre and still be a Thelemite.

    The word "Theleme" is derived from "Gargantua and Pantagruel" by Rabalais (as mentioned above). Sir Francis Dashwood's Medmenham Abbey (or "Hellfire Club") took Rabalais' masterpiece of ribald puns and Alchemical allegory and fleshed it out into a first rate social club, having as its motto "Fay ce que voudras!" Crowley could not have helped but be inspired by the goings on there.

    • Re: Thelema Is . . .
      by Shader XX on Friday February 23, @05:01PM
      ...i have no problem with what you said above,
      except this, when i was in the grand lodge, my will and my mates will, were directly meddled
      with by a member (thelemite), and when it was brought to the attention of the high mucky mucks
      they just went along with it basicaly, therefore encouraging it, well Grady did at one point say it was"horseshit" but nothing was done to prevent
      the situation, it became the hair the broke the Camels back for us, in that it was the last staw,
      so we departed, on our own, so i am using this point to directly illustrate, that it is fine and dandy to say that a thelemite does not interfere
      with another thelemites will, but in fact this did happen to us, and to this day the person that did it, is considered a hero!...and so i know that a lot of people that call them thelemites, like to say such things such as the statement above mine,
      but in the nitty gritty of practice, theory dosen't
      always pan out...pun intended!

      but i have always adhered to the theory, and i have never interfered with others, but i do speak my mind, and sometimes my mind does its own will
      i do not impose ridged maxims on it, except that
      if my radical stream of consciousness sometimes
      sounds counterdictory and i am merely egnored by
      people; that is as it is, so mote it be!


      • Re: Thelema Is . . .
        by Toy Soldier on Monday March 05, @11:35AM
        I generally think that people who just can't stop complaining about things that happened more than ten years ago, and which everyone else has long since forgotten about, bear more than a minority stake in how things went down. The same personality issues that made them unable to deal with the problems effectively at the time are reflected in their continuing to hold the long-past state of the group against it.


    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Nexist on Friday February 23, @04:55PM
    Like many things, the definition varies depending on the target. Xtians I don't wish to offend, I describe it as a gnostic variant, opposed to prosyletization, & focused on understanding one's place in God's Plan (all of which is technically true) and then I sidetrack it into a discussion of the Bible (if necessary).

    If I am trying to be offensive, I say that it is the adulation & adoration of the Great Whore Babalon as she rides (thrust hips) upon the Beast 666 and the pursuit of the Blood of the Saints to fill her cup so to increase her drunkeness.

    If I am actually trying to explain, I use something along the lines of what I have in Liber Atri Matris, Section II.2: What is Thelema?.

    • Re: Thelema Is . . .
      by Xnoubis on Saturday February 24, @01:03PM
      > Liber Atri Matris, Section II.2:
      > What is Thelema?

      Good stuff!

      > the adulation & adoration of the Great Whore
      > Babalon as she rides (thrust hips) upon the
      > Beast 666 and the pursuit of the Blood of the
      > Saints to fill her cup so to increase her
      > drunkeness.

      That, though, is fabulous!


    • Re: Thelema Is...
      by Virbius on Saturday February 24, @03:15PM
      Liber Atri Matris, Section II.2: What is Thelema?.


      I agree. This is impressive.

      I particularly appreciate:

      > 1. A belief in the sanctity of the Individual
      > (or Individuation). "Every man and every
      > woman is a star" - AL I:3.

      ...a point I had made previously (as a primary definition of Thelema). I also feel that the emphasis on arriving at Individuation (cf. Carl Jung) is quite accurate, it fits my own definition of Thelema.

      Several points that I feel a need to argue:

      a) "Thelema" several people have now stated that Rabalais is the earliest known use of the word. Maybe as a forefather of our current beliefs, yes, but the word is ancient Greek and was used (among other places) in the New Testament gospels ("Our Father in Heaven hallowed be thy name...Thy WILL be done", the word used in the original Greek texts of those gospels is "Thelema").

      b) Aeonic Progression - This has never been a staple of my beliefs. While I cannot deny some truth to this, and find a great depth of meaning in the concept of The Aeon of Horus, I find much empasis on this to be a little to much like Christians arguing about the Millenium.

      I knew a protestant minister once who claimed to be a "Pan-Tribulationist". When asked what he meant by that he would say he believed that "it would all pan out in the end".

      Io Pan.


      • Re: Thelema Is...
        by Nexist on Saturday February 24, @09:24PM
        Believe it or not, I also share my thoughts on Aeonic Progression, in a segment titled Section II.6: Aeonic Progression. I would appreciate comment on the whole thing, a work entitled Liber Atri Matris


        • Re: Thelema Is...
          by Nexist on Saturday February 24, @09:26PM
          Oh yes, Thanks to both of you for the kind words.


          • Re: Thelema Is...
            by Virbius on Saturday February 24, @11:06PM
            Your thesis is definitely very thorough. I felt that it was particularly encouraging that you and I had both deduced "The Sanctity of the Individual" as a central doctrine of Thelema, and interesting to note that we both came to this conclusion individually, without having read the other's writing. I take it as a sign (small though it may be) that the study of these works, and the practice of Thelema, is valid.

            I have not yet given your study of the theory of aeons sufficient consideration yet to comment. When I have given what I feel to be sufficient thought I will comment. Please see my comments under Xonubis' article Crowley and Spiral Dynamics.


    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Shader XX on Saturday February 24, @09:08PM
    ...ok after practicing thrusting my hips, in the direction of my mate, i happened to come up with this one more though on the definition of thelema:
    so here goes; a thelemite is a new form of a kind of mason, that is influanced by the Book of the LAW, ok got that down, but (and this is not just something a thelemite does)...a thelemite is one whom; is guided and aided by and through the transdimensional or extradimensional influance of
    the "Secret Chiefs"...and this does and can take various shapes and forms...perhaps now the thing would be to attempt to define, these different
    'shapes' and 'forms'...and or what a shape as complimented by a form would be; or how that is
    going according to different astrological and astronomical influances and shifts, which we as
    humans have been and are undergoing, "procession
    of Aeons"...as it were, that sort of thing, all
    needs to be taken into account, in this definition
    we are so much more then the sum of our parts!are we not?!

    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Charles Humphries on Sunday February 25, @07:09PM
    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

    I define "Thelema" as the word of the Law in this, the Aeon of Horus.

    I define "Thelemite" as one who is consciously living in this, the Aeon of Horus.

    Love is the law, love under will.

    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Desmond on Monday February 26, @03:43PM
    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

    Thelema is a religion based upon the principles set forth in LIBER LEGIS, The Book of the Law. Regardless of how these principles are applied, interpreted, or embellished, this simple definition is applicable in some fashion to all those who have posted above, and to all who refer to themselves as Thelemites.

    It is a clear indicator that you understand a subject when you are able to coherently explain it to someone else in terms that they can understand. There are many people who do not identify with Thelema, but who live out its ideals. The others who do call themselves Thelemites, however, should make it a point to understand what that means and develop the means to communicate it to someone else. If not for the benefit of another, then it should at least be done for the benefit of self-knowledge.

    Perhaps, on investigating the subject further you may find that your actions and ideals are not consistent with those which you previously associated with Thelema. This should be a welcome discovery for anyone who desires to discover their True Selves and True Will in accordance with the teachings of Thelema.

    The Book of the Law is a profound document. Its passages can (and probably will) take many lifetimes to fully explore. Aleister Crowley wrote many short essays and epistles clearly explaining the main principles which he felt were the most crucial to communicate to humanity. The most important epistles, in my opinion, are "The Law of Liberty" and "The Message of the Master Therion," while the most sublime is "De Lege Libellum." In the same manner that St. Paul's epistles are included in the Bible of the Christians, so should the epistles of the Master Therion be enshrined with our Holy Books. They should be read and re-read until the teachings are clearly understood and in truth become your own teachings. This should be done not with the purpose of molding yourself according to the opinions of someone else, but rather because the teachings assist you in discovering who you really are.

    So, before the next time you greet someone with the words "93", take the time to ponder the meaning of Thelema to the point where you can formulate and coherently communicate its principles to someone else. You may then find that when someone approaches you with the question of your religion, you will not evade the question by calling yourself a "Taoist," or intimidate them by referring to yourself as a "Gnostic Hermetic Qabalist," but instead you will face them with pride saying "I am a Thelemite," with full knowledge and understanding of what that means.

    Love is the law, love under will.

    In L.V.X.,
    Desmond

    Re: Thelema Is...
    by Nekial on Monday February 26, @11:40PM
    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

    Great discussion!
    First, I'm glad Liber II ("which explains the essense of the new Law in a very simple manner" Magick, 451) was finally mentioned. But Crowley advises against calling Thelema a religion. ("Call it a new Religion if it pleases you...but I confess I fail to see what you will have gained by so doing, and I feel bound to add that you might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief." Magick w/o Tears, Letter 31)

    He indicates it is the opposite of religion, in that it succeeds where they fail, is guided by Absolute Skepticism and not superstition; it is the True and universal religion, whereas other systems are sectarian. (cf. Magick, 161, 425, 444!, 490, 500, 502, 682-84, 688, and The Law is for All [1985ev] 124, 140, 150, etc.)

    VIRBIUS: Bringing Rabelais into a short-definition of Thelema seems counterproductive, best saved for a History lecture. As regards Sanctity of the individiual's will, it is of course the True Will, and not the personal whim that is our Glory. I like the quotes from Magick, I and XXI, but can't this be said of any system of attainment?

    PVLVLVATIVS: Simple definitions are not too hard, there are several above, though the sources, and symbols of Thelema are complex, and "it has as many rules as there are individuals." (L is for A, 108)

    FRATER PONDEROSA: I like the short definition very much, but I don't think it's a matter of defining religion. See above; also, since there are many definitions of religion, calling Thelema a religion begs "in what sense?" and you're back to defining Thelema.

    AMALGAMATED PERSONA: I think the responses above contain clear definitions - it's not hard to compose a general, short answer. The specifics are personal, and as complex as you will.
    (But even Crowley says: "As soon as one selects a phrase, one starts to kick holes in it." Mw/oT, Letter 31.)

    XNOUBIS: Yes...Or: to bind back as in restrict, see Liber AL, I, 41 - (didn't Crowley go into that def. of religion somewhere? can't find it...)
    But to say that Thelema's the teachings of Crowley tells one little...

    MALGWYN: Defining Thelemite is a different matter, but if it's a person that accepts the Law of Thelema, then we're back to square one: What's that? (but see what AC has to say in L.is/forA., 187-88, and dig Magick 486, from "So must all..."

    NEXIST: I liked Liber Atri Matris, II, 2 and look forward to reading the rest.

    Finally, I have been thoroughly enjoying Beast Bay; thank you.

    Love is the law, love under will.

    • Re: Thelema Is...
      by Xnoubis on Tuesday February 27, @10:37AM
      > Or: to bind back as in restrict

      Yes, restriction could be seen as the Qlipphoth of adherence to our True Will. Do we bind ourselves to our truth, or to something else?

      Thelema is substantially different from a religion in the Judeo-Christian sense, agreed. I just feel that Crowley defined religion too narrowly.

      > to say that Thelema's the teachings of Crowley
      > tells one little

      Any summary will tell one little. But I say that Thelema is founded on the teachings of Crowley, which to me is an important distinction.


    • Re: Thelema Is...
      by Virbius on Tuesday February 27, @08:13PM
      > ("Call it a new Religion if it pleases
      > you...but I confess I fail to see what you will
      > have gained by so doing, and I feel bound to
      > add that you might easily cause a great deal of
      > misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind
      > of mischief." Magick w/o Tears, Letter 31)

      In the big picture, I don't think this was one of uncle Al's more lucid moments, neither yours.

      > it is the True and universal religion

      Case and point.

      I have never felt that "Religion" (Latin "Religare") is or was something that should be restrictive. I think many people misunderstand this term. The "World's Great Religions" and their practitioners have doubtless done much to induce this misunderstanding.

      > As regards Sanctity of the individiual's will,
      > it is of course the True Will, and not the
      > personal whim that is our Glory.

      Man has the right to live by his own law-
      to live in the way that he wills to do:
      to work as he will:
      to play as he will:
      to rest as he will:
      to die when and how he will.
      Man has the right to eat what he will:
      to drink what he will:
      to dwell where he will:
      to move as he will on the face of the Earth.
      Man has the right to think what he will:
      to speak what he will:
      to write what he will:
      to draw, paint, carve, etch, mould, build as he will:
      to dress as he will.
      Man has the right to love as he will:
      "take Your fill and will of love as ye will,
      when, where, and with whom ye will." Liber AL 1.51
      Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights.

      Is some part of this unclear?

      You know, I'm not sure what this mysterious (as yet undefined) "True Will" is all about, but it seems to me that if there is anything restricting me at the moment, it would be you.

      Do what thou wilt.

      I am presently unfamiliar with Liber II. I plan to research that.


      • Re: Thelema Is...
        by Mordecai Shapiro on Wednesday February 28, @09:45AM
        I don't care for the expression "True Will". It seems to imply a "False Will" as a consequence which makes no sense to me at all. I prefer the phrase "Pure Will" when referring to that perfect self-expression at which most Thelemites aim.


      • Re: Thelema Is...
        by Virbius on Thursday March 01, @08:56PM
        I regret being so harsh. I kind of got caught up in the bitter shadow of our very human mentor.

        I'd like to say "I just don't have it in me to be that much of an asshole" but the fact is i've got it in me to be that much of an asshole and then some...I would just like to save it for someone more deserving. I understand that Nekial was just sharing his enthusiasm.

        93, 418, 666, 777, 3.14159, 6.02x10²³, prime numbers, rational and irrational numbers, constants, variables and all equations in general... not necessarily in that order.


    • Re: Thelema Is...
      by Nexist on Tuesday February 27, @11:47PM
      Thank you. The rest is available at Liber Atri Matris.

      I look forward to your feedback.


    Re: Thelema Is...Liber II
    by Virbius on Tuesday February 27, @08:50PM
    I just found Liber II here and this was pretty good.

    I accept this as a definition of "True Will".

    One of the more positive influences on my path once said to me: "Look at yourself, ask yourself: 'What would that guy do right now'?".

    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by The Amazing Maozim on Wednesday February 28, @01:17PM
    I am a Thelemite.
    I exalt the ego, and in doing so do I seperate the concept of self from it.
    I accept none, I refuse none.
    My psyche will NOT be restricted, the meaning is more fleeting than its cause.
    My rapture is the earth, my glory the stars; they are without limits.
    I am The Holy Chosen One, it is I that shall redeem the world. It was I who let in the Darkness, it is I who shall let in the light.
    I am Magus. I am the cause of all things.
    I am the Secret Kings, and the beggers, and the dogs. My pit is mine, Because.
    Within my reflection is all things, within all things is my reflection.
    I am the mother of Epithymia, who shall exceed me.

    • Re: Thelema Is . . .
      by Pee Wee Herman on Sunday March 04, @09:30PM
      I know you are, but what am I?


    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Kalyx on Thursday March 01, @10:46AM
    Usually when asked, I take a deep breath, give it a moment for a the related information to pool in my head, and then say something drawn from bits and pieces of the following ideas:

    "Of course, this is only my opinion, and other Thelemites may or may not agree with it as Thelema is highly personal and emphasizes the individual, but this is my definition of Thelema:

    Thelema is somewhere between a philosophy and a religion whose central idea, (expressed as "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law") is that every human being is by their truest nature Divine, and has a role to play in the universal order of things, which we refer to as the True Will. True Will is hard to define, know, or figure out how to do, so a great deal of emphasis is put on first knowing yourself, then being true to what you know of yourself, and then finally, being yourself ...and in the process, giving others the space to do the same. This learning process often...but not always...involves a transformative practice, and probably the most common among Thelemites is Magick, which Crowley talked about a lot.

    In that sense, Thelema is a branch of the Western Mystery Tradition that has been expressed through religion, the arts and the literary tradition for many, many years. As a magickal practice, you'll find everything from very traditional ceremonial magickians to pagans to industrial musician/performance artists doing it.

    Thelema is also a spiritual practice first articulated by Aleister Crowley in the early 1900's, drawn from a variety of sources, including Gnosticism, Taoism, Quabbala, Ceremonial Magick, the various philosophical and scientific bodies of knowledge, Egyptian Mystery, and a bunch of other stuff, not excluding have to get some snakes out of your head from a oppresively religious upbringing. It has been expanded now to include influences from dang near anything out there [note: I only say "dang" in the South, for a colloquial emphasis and a tension breaker, because by now the person is looking at me with a dazed expression in their eyes, thinking "how the hell do I get this woman to shut up"?]...including people who don't really seem to like Crowley all that much.

    I usually take a break around this part, giving them the space either to smile and nod politely before excusing themselves, or else ask questions.

    My personal favorite way to answer the question is to have a couple other Thelemites near, grab a table at a coffee bar, and hold forth. Out of the hodgepodge of info, something usually grabs their attention and we go from there. {Yeah, I know..."talk not overmuch"...but I'm usually asked this question by people in the pagan/spiritual community here and we tend to "spaz" on subjects.} I always finish it up with some book titles, website addresses and the encouragement to go figure it out for themselves.

    Kalyx

    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Mark Shekoyan on Thursday March 01, @01:33PM
    When trying to define Thelema I often refer to outside sources which I feel may bridge the gap to other's experiences.

    In general I have found the Bagavad Gita and Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcedentalism to be powerful reference points for communicating Thelemic concepts to mixed audiences. I identify True Will as Dharma and the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of One's Holy Guardian Angel as similar to the Yogic Path of realization of the Atman/Brahman Unity as layed out in the Gita's chapters.

    Emerson's emphasis on self reliance, embracing of one's own inner voice, being true to oneself, and expressing one's own creative "genius" are all strong threads in my interpretation and communication of Thelemic ideas. Emerson's idea's are also woven into the fiber of American national consciousness on some level, and may thus serve as a bridge for those unfamiliar with gnosticism, or Occult teachings in general.

    When people push on the issue of Libertinism and the ethics of Thelema, I often Bring up Saint Augustine's statement, "Love God, Do What You Will."

    I also point to John Stuart Mill's philosophical statement on Liberty which is a founding idea behind the American constitution.


    Rollo May's "Love and Will" serve as an excellent translation point for relating Thelemic ideas to the vocabulary of Humanistic Psychology.

    These ideas I have found serve well in translating Crowley's European based Occult knowledge into a context American audiences can understand and relate to.

    93 93/93

    Mark

    • Re: Thelema Is . . .
      by Xnoubis on Thursday March 01, @02:03PM
      Good points, but...

      > John Stuart Mill's philosophical statement on
      > Liberty which is a founding idea behind the
      > American constitution

      I hope that you mean Mill's statement is essentially similar to one of the Constitution's founding ideas. The Constitution was written in 1787, and Mill was born in 1806. Mill was clever, but not that clever.


      • Re: Thelema Is . . .
        by Mark Shekoyan on Sunday March 04, @12:21AM
        Thank you for the correction. I should pay better attention to my history. Still, I find Mill's ideas on Liberty rich with potential for making Thelemic ideas relevant to outside audiences.


        • Re: Thelema Is . . .
          by Mordecai Shapiro on Sunday March 04, @09:40PM
          Constitutions aside, Mill is certainly relevant for Thelemites. As for Emerson, I once proposed him for Gnostic sainthood, and though he hasn't received official recognition yet, neither has he been ruled out.


          • Re: Thelema Is . . .
            by Tim Maroney on Monday March 05, @11:40AM
            Perhaps a submission for the Order of the Lion would meet a more favorable and speedy reception?

            Tim


    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by Rev. Mike Margolin on Monday March 05, @11:03PM
    93,
    Thelema is the belief system that is designed to achieve spiritual growth through the development of ones will.
    93/93/93
    ISN
    Rev. Mikey 666
    P.S. You asked :P

    Re: Thelema Is . . .
    by starphoenix on Tuesday April 02, @07:24PM
    Thelema is difficult to explain because its a state of being and not a profession of faith in some person or event or even a creed.

    In a sense Thelema is closer to existentialialism than it is to religion, except that in the case of the Thelemite, 'existence' includes a mythos that might make 'magickal existentialism' a more correct term.

    The Thelemic experience, while inclusive in a purely formal sense i.e. due to the requirements of ritual, is at root a creative 'way of being', and so is intrinsically an individual undertaking. The person above who referred to Taoism was on the right track I think, because to be Thelemic is to actively seek balance by investing life with the potency of a magickal sensibility. Life itself becomes a living sacrament and the communion is ongoing, or should be, since transformation is ongoing and not the pre-purchased salvation given to the Christian.

    Also one aspect of the Thelemic life that I feel is not sufficiently emphasised, is its oppositional dynamic. By opposing the mechanism of automatic manifestation - in other words the habitual gestures and clarifications to which flesh is heir - we create in ourselves a 'third force' that is wholly in sympathy with the dark designs of Hoor-paar-kraat. Nobody died for us, but we must voluntarily die for ourselves. This death is not due to sin, but springs from a desire to be a star as none other and to fully reflect the glory of our HGA. Again in this act - we are the doers - each man and woman singly. And this is the great glory of Thelema and what makes it truly 'the path of the warrior'.

    Love under will.

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