Chapter XXXI: Religion–Is Thelema a "New Religion"?


By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XXXI: Religion–Is Thelema a “New Religion”?

Cara Soror,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

“Would you describe your system as a new religion?” A pertinent question, you doubtless suppose; whether it may happen to mean anything is—is—is—well, is what we must try to make clear.

True, it's a slogan of A∴ A∴ “The method of science—the aim of religion.” Here the word “aim” and the context help the definition; it must mean the attainment of Knowledge and Power in spiritual matters—or words to that effect: as soon as one selects a phrase, one starts to kick holes in it! Yet we both know perfectly well all the time what we do mean.

But this is certainly not the sense of the word in your question. It may clear our minds, as has so often happened, if we examine it through the lens of dear old Skeat.

Religion, he says, Latin: religio, piety. Collection or paying attention to: religens as opposed to negligens, neglecting; the attitude of Gallio. But it also implies a binding together i.e. of ideas; in fact, a “body of doctrine.” Not a bad expression. A religion then, is a more or less coherent and consistent set of beliefs, with precepts and prohibitions therefrom deducible. But then there is the sense in which Frazer (and I) often use the word: as in opposition to “Science” or “Magic.” Here the point is that religious people attribute phenomena to the will of some postulated Being or Beings, placable and moveable by virtue of sacrifice, devotion, or appeal. Against such, the scientific or magical mind believes in the Laws of Nature, asserts “If A, then B”—if you do so-and-so, the result will be so-and-so, aloof from arbitrary interference. Joshua, it is alleged, made the sun stand still by supplication, and Hezekiah in the same way cause it to “go back upon the dial of Ahaz;” Willett did it by putting the clock back, and getting an Act of Parliament to confirm his lunacy. Petruchio, too “It shall be what o'clock I say it is!” The two last came close to the magical method; at least, to that branch of it which consists of “fooling all the people all the time.” But such an operation, if true Magick were employed, would be beyond the power of any magician of my acquaintance; for it would mess up the solar system completely. (You remember how this happened, and what came of it, in a rather clever short story by H.G. Wells.) For true Magick means “to employ one set of natural forces at a mechanical advantage as against another set”—I quote, as closely as memory serves, Thomas Henry Huxley, when he explains that when he lifts his water-jug—or his elbow—he does not “defy the Law of Gravitation.” On the contrary, he uses that Law; its equations form part of the system by which he lifts the jug without spilling the water.

To sum up, our system is a religion just so far as a religion means an enthusiastic putting-together of a series of doctrines, no one of which must in any way clash with Science or Magick.

Call it a new religion, then, if it so please your Gracious Majesty; but I confess that 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.

The word does not occur in The Book of the Law.

Love is the law, love under will.



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