by Dionysos Thriambos
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Thelema is a Law encompassing an universal ethic, a revealed religion, postulates of magick, and a philosophy of nature. The Law was received by its prophet Aleister Crowley in 1904 e.v. as the result of the Cairo Working, a magical operation undertaken in that city in the spring of the year. The reception of the Law is associated with the inauguration of a New Age or Aeon that has redefined the conditions of human spirituality on this planet.
The word thelema is Greek and means “will.” It is the same word used in the original Greek of the Christian pater noster to refer to the will of God (“Thy will be done.”) Thelemites–i.e. adherents of Thelema–seek to discover and execute the most exalted and universal sense of their individual wills, so that human will and divine will become indistinguishable. To quote Crowley on the significance of “Do what thou wilt,”
Thelema is often referred to as “the Law of Liberty,” and it is significant that the word “liberty” is used, as opposed to “license.” License to indulge a whim is granted by authority, whereas the liberty to do one's will is inherent in the will itself. The various ramifications of the Law are treated in The Book of the Law and Crowley's commentaries to it, published as The Law is for All.
The basic statement of the Law is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” This statement bears a similarity to Augustine's “Love, and do as thou wilt,” and Rabelais' “Do what thou wilt,” both of which preceded it. Its similarity to the later Wiccan Rede is notable, as are the differences between the two. The fact that Gerald Gardner was an initiate of O.T.O. (a thelemic initatory order) before organizing his first coven may account for the inclusion of “Do what ye will” in the Wiccan Rede.
Differences between the Law of Thelema and the Wiccan Rede are basically threefold:
- The concept of “will” as defined in the Law is generally not distinguished with the same rigor in Wiccan discourse. The use of the plural “ye” actually seems to exclude the weighty individualism of the Law addressed to the singular “thou.”
- Wiccans add the phrase “an ye harm none.” The aspiration to harmlessness is not a typical element in thelemic philosophies, and certainly does not characterize the tone of The Book of the Law.
- Wiccans omit the phrase “shall be the whole of the Law,” a phrase which suggests a more compelling mandate and/or a prognostication.
Whereas the Wiccan Rede is a familiar maxim for witches, the Law of Thelema is invoked constantly among Thelemites. In the theory of Thelemic ettiquette, one greets another with “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” and the other returns the greeting with “Love is the law, love under will.” In practice, both sentences are generally shortened to the number “ninety-three.” 93 is the sum of the values of the letters of the word thelema in Greek. It is likewise the total value of the Greek word agape, which means “love.”
Additionally, Thelemites use these two sentences as the opening and closing of letters in personal correspondence, and when writing articles for publication like this one.
Love is the law, love under will.
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