Thelema Part 1
The following notes on Thelemic theology are based primarily on the writings of Aleister Crowley. These notes are not intended as interpretations or commentary on “The Book of the Law” outside the bounds of the Prophet’s writings, nor do they represent a definitive statement of Thelemic belief.
The religion known as Thelema (Greek for will) was founded in 1904 when the English poet and mystic Aleister Crowley (October 12, 1875 – December 1, 1947), who is regarded as its prophet, received “The Book of the Law.” Those who follow the path of Thelema are known as Thelemites.The theology of Thelema postulates all manifested existence arising from the interaction of two cosmic principles: the infinitely extended, all-pervading space-time Continuum; and the atomic, individually expressed Principle of Life and Wisdom. The interplay of these Principles gives rise to the Principle of Consciousness, which governs existence.
In “The Book of the Law,” these divine Principles are personified by a trinity of ancient Egyptian Divinities: Nuit, the Goddess of Infinite Space; Hadit, the Winged Serpent of Light; and Ra-Hoor-Khuit (Horus), the Solar, Hawk-Headed Lord of the Cosmos.The Thelemic theological system utilizes the divinities of various cultures and religions as personifications of specific divine, archetypal and cosmic forces. Thelemic doctrine holds that all the diverse religions of humanity are grounded in universal truths; and the study of comparative religion is an important discipline for many Thelemites.
With respect to concepts of the individual soul, Thelema follows traditional Hermeticism in the doctrine that each person possesses a soul or “Body of Light” which is arranged in “layers” or “sheaths” surrounding the physical body. Each individual is also considered to have his or her own personal “Augoeides” or “Holy Guardian Angel;” which can be considered both as the “higher self” and as a separate, sentient, divine being.
With respect to concepts of the afterlife, life itself is considered as a continuum, with death an integral part of the whole. Mortal life dies in order that mortal life may continue. The Augoeides, however, is immortal, and not subject to life or death. Parallel to Buddhist doctrine, the Body of Light is considered to be subject to metempsychosis, or reincarnation, after the death of the body. The Body of Light is generally considered to evolve in wisdom, consciousness and spiritual power through cycles of metempsychosis, for those individuals who dedicate their lives to spiritual advancement to the point that its fate after death may ultimately be determined by the Will of the individual.Thelema incorporates the idea of the cyclic evolution of Cultural Consciousness as well as of Personal Consciousness. History is considered to be divided into a series of “Aeons”, each with its own dominant concept of divinity and its own “formula” of redemption and advancement. The current Aeon is termed the Aeon of Horus. The previous Aeon was that of Osiris, and previous to that was the Aeon of Isis.
The Neolithic Aeon of Isis is considered to have been dominated by the maternal idea of divinity, and its formula involved devotion to Mother Earth in return for the nourishment and shelter She provided. The Classical/Medieval Aeon of Osiris is considered to have been dominated by the Paternal Principle, and its formula was that of self-sacrifice and submission to the Father God. The modern Aeon of Horus is considered to be dominated by the Principle of the Child, the sovereign individual; and its formula is that of growth, in consciousness and love, towards self-realization.According to Thelemic doctrine, the expression of Divine Law in the Aeon of Horus is “Do what thou wilt.” This “Law of Thelema,” as it is called, is not to be interpreted as a license to indulge every passing whim. But rather as the divine mandate to discover one’s True Will or true purpose in life, and to accomplish it, leaving others to do the same in their own unique ways. The “acceptance” of the Law of Thelema is what defines a Thelemite; and the discovery and accomplishment of the True Will is the fundamental concern of all Thelemites. Achieving the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” is considered an integral part of this process.The methods and practices to be employed in this process are numerous and varied; and are grouped together under the generalized term “Magick.” Not every Thelemite utilizes all the practices available, there is considerable room for each individual practitioner to choose practices which are suitable to his or her individual needs. Some of these practices are the same as, or similar to, the practices advocated by many of the great religions of the past and present, such as: prayer, meditation, study of religious texts, tenets and practices (those of Thelema and of other religions as well), chanting, symbolic and initiatory ritual, devotional exercises, self-discipline, etc. However, some of the practices have been traditionally associated with what has generally been known as “occultism,” i.e., astrology, divination, numerology, yoga, tantric alchemy, and discourse with “angels” or “spirits.” These are taken by Thelemites as potentially effective means for obtaining spiritual insights into the nature of one’s being and one’s place in the universe; and for the fulfillment of such insights through harmonious, evolutionary works.Thelema considers any action which is not directed towards the discovery and accomplishment of the True Will to be “black magic.” This includes acts of interference with any other individual’s lawful exercise of their right to discover and accomplish their own True Will. Thelemic doctrine holds that the disharmony and imbalance created by such actions results in a compensatory, equilibration response from the universe; a doctrine similar to that of the eastern conception of “Karma.” Thelema has no direct parallel to the Judeo-Christian concept of the devil or Satan; however, a pseudo-personification of confusion, distraction, illusion and egotistical ignorance is referred to by the name “Choronzon”.
The official holy days of Thelema are set forth in The Book of the Law, Chapter II, verses 36-41. The specific dates attributed to them are given in Crowley’s commentaries, and are summarized below:
The Rituals of the Elements and Feasts of the Times are observed at the Equinoxes and Solstices.The Feast for the First Night of the Prophet and His Bride is observed on August 12.The Feast for the Three days of the Writing of the Book of the Law is observed on April 8, 9, and 10, beginning at noon on each day.The Feast for the Supreme Ritual (the Invocation of Horus) is observed on March 20, and represents the opening of the Thelemic New Year.The Feast for the Equinox of the Gods is held on the Vernal Equinox of each year to commemorate the founding of Thelema in 1904.Three points of passage in the life of each Thelemite are observed. Birth is celebrated in a Feast for Life; puberty is celebrated in a Feast for Fire (for a boy), or a Feast for Water (for a girl); and the death of the individual is commemorated in a Greater Feast for Death.Various anniversaries commemorating major events and figures in the history of Thelema and Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) are also celebrated informally by some Thelemic groups.
Nearly all Thelemites keep a record of their personal practices, (i.e. meditation, prayer, ritual, ceremony, etc.) and their progress therein, in a “Magical Diary.” Most Thelemites also practice a particular form of prayer four times per day, which is specified in a book called “Liber Resh vel Helios.” Thelemites often take mystic names or “magical mottoes” for themselves as a sign of commitment; and customarily greet each other with the phrase, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law;” to which the customary response is, “Love is the law, love under will.” Sometimes these phrases are abbreviated by the simple statement of the number “ninety-three” (93), which number signifies both “Will” and “Love” through a particular form of numerology of significance within Thelema.
Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) is an Initiate Body composed of men and women who have accepted the principles of “The Book of the Law.” The central celebratory rite of Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) is called the Gnostic Mass. The Gnostic Mass was written by Aleister Crowley in 1913 and is technically known as “Liber XV.” This rite may be performed under the supervision of a Priest or Priestess of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC), the Sacerdotal arm of OTO in accordance with the bylaws of OTO. There is no specific time or day on which Thelemites gather to celebrate the Gnostic Mass, however, it is desirable that it be performed weekly whenever possible. As well as congregating to celebrate the Gnostic Mass, most Thelemic communities gather regularly for participation in study groups on a wide variety of subjects. Within the broad context of Thelema, OTO functions as a fraternal, initiatory, social, and educational organization of a religious nature.OTO currently operates in 17 countries around the world and has approximately 3,100 active members. (spiritual.com.au – Editors note: Not sure how the author could have arrived at this figure?)Generally speaking, the Thelemic Holy Days are celebrated with the performance of the Gnostic Mass followed by a community Feast.
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