Core Beliefs Of Thelema

Core Beliefs Of Thelema Cover The core beliefs of Thelema can be summed up in one phrase from The Book of the Law: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." (AL I:40). As one Thelemite I know put it, "That's the whole of the Law. All the rest is just commentary."

This phrase cannot be properly understood without knowing what Crowley meant by "will." Will is the English translation of the Greek word "Thelema" for which the path itself is named. It is the word one finds in the Greek version of the Christian Bible in the phrase "Thy will be done." Will is not wish or whim or want or karma or desire or predestination: it is a spiritual imperative that comes from the deepest, most true source of one's being.

The phrase from Chapter 1, verse 40 may be familiar to you. It is the phrase that was carved over the doorway to the Abbey of Thelema in Rabelais's Pantagruel. Pantagruel was a fictional story of a utopian society, written in 1532. Crowley borrowed some, but not all, of Rabelais's philosophy in constructing the path of Thelema. This phrase may also seem familiar because of the relationship between Crowley and Gerald Gardner. Crowley was inspirational to Gardner in the latter's revival of the Old Religion (Witchcraft) and Gardner used much of Crowley's poetry, both as written and re-done, in building the new traditions and rituals of Witchcraft.

Two other verses are particularly important to note when attempting to sum up the core beliefs of Thelema. The first is, "Love is the law, love under will." (AL I:57). Thelema has occasionally been accused of being a cold-hearted path because of this teaching. There are some who would consider putting love under will to be a perversion of love. Different Thelemites will, of course, interpret this phrase differently. Here is one possible interpretation: will is what makes us capable of love. Another possible interpretation: Love is the Law and doing one's Will is the Law. These two forces must be balanced with neither being allowed to run rampant. Love under will does not necessarily mean that love is beneath or lesser than will, but rather indicates a love aligned with spiritual imperative. Anyone who has roughly pulled their child out of a busy street, left an abusive lover despite still being deeply in love with her, or refused to lie to an alcoholic spouse's boss will recognize "love under will" though they may refer to it by another name such as "loving strictness, " "enlightened self-interest, " or "tough love."

Another important verse to consider, for those who wish to better understand Thelema, is: "Every man and every woman is a star." (AL I:3) As with all passages from The Book of the Law, this verse is open to a variety of interpretations. A common interpretation is the dual message that men and women are equally high in stature and that each of us is a powerful force. A common belief among Thelemites is that, were each of us to do our will, we would be like a universe of stars, majestically moving through time-space and rarely clashing with one another. While there is a strong imperative within the Thelemic culture to seek and pursue one's will, many Thelemites would agree that doing one's will would not involve forcing others to be or do that which they themselves do not will to be or do - simultaneously realizing that it is difficult enough to know one's own will and virtually impossible to discern the will of another.

A question that periodically arises both within and without the Thelemic community is whether Thelema should be considered a Neo-pagan path or not. In his writings, Crowley refers to himself with all apparent sincerity as a Satanist, a Christian (the truest of all Christians, in fact) and a Pagan. Likewise modern Thelemites can be found who identify themselves as Satanist, Christian, pagan and any combination of these categories. In fact, there are even Thelemites who consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics. With the typical paradoxical thinking of mystics from any of the world's religions, some Thelemites see no inherent contradiction to being all of these categories simultaneously. It is also not uncommon, however, to meet Thelemites who are vehemently opposed to any of these labels, especially the title of Christian.

Thelema encompasses not only a diverse range of religious categories but also a range of expressions. While some Thelemites consider Thelema to be a religion, others would be more likely to call it an occult path and still others regard Thelema as a philosophy. The only single unifying factor one can apply to all Thelemites is the personal pursuit of Will.

Books You Might Enjoy:

Dion Fortune - The Machinery Of The Mind
William Godwin - The Lives Of The Necromancers
Anonymous - The Prayers Of The Elementals
Nicolas Schreck - Demons Of The Flesh

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