enchiridion /noun/ (Gk. ἐγχειρίδιον): a book containing essential information on a subject
Thelema /noun/ (Gk. θέλημα): the existential philosophy of individual conduct derived from Liber AL vel Legis and the writings of Aleister Crowley
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Out of a desire to make the philosophy of Aleister Crowley as easily accessible as possible, I’ve assembled this page. It is designed to be a quick reference guide to all of the questions that I have previously answered, posted essays and other comments. As I answer questions pertaining to the philosophy of Thelema or post an important comment or topical essay, they will be cross-linked here. If you are thinking of asking a question, please take a moment to see if that question has already been answered below. And, per usual, DISQUS is enabled on all posts.
Love is the law, love under will.
Commentary & Essays
- A brief essay outlining Crowley’s psychology and its use of the Freudian structural model and Husserl’s Transcendental Ego.
- An essay succinctly describing how the individual uncovers their True Will based on contemporary psychology theory.
- An essay intended to demonstrate that Thelema cannot be considered a religion except in the broadest of senses.
- An essay summarizing Thelemic philosophy within the context of the question of the legitimacy of suicide.
- A review of an article by Tim Maroney published in the Disinformation Guide: Book of Lies edited by Richard Metzger.
- A commentary on the belief that Liber OZ supports a noninterventionist approach to the rights of others and the manner in which such “interference” is to be handled.
- A commentary refuting the popular but mistaken notion, based on The Comment, that the interpretation of Liber AL is wholly up to the individual.
- A brief review of the three consistently recommended biographies of Aleister Crowley from Symonds, Wilson and Kaczynski.
Previously Answered Questions
1. How would you explain Thelema, in about 15 minutes, to an intelligent twelve year old?
First, let’s address your second question. As I despise children, I’m not entirely sure I would ever be in a conversation with an intelligent twelve year old. So, let’s rephrase it in way more pleasing to my misanthropy, namely, “Can you please summarize the basic tenets of Thelema?” And, yes, I can summarize the basic tenets of Thelema. To wit: [Read More]
2. So, what is Thelema’s view of women? Wasn’t Crowley sexist?
Yes, Crowley was very sexist. He held to all the outrageously misogynistic notions of the Victorian era. Emotionally stunted and struggling against extensive sexual repression, he never really treated women as anything but sexual playthings. [Read More]
3. I see a lot of right-wing politics associated with Thelema on the internet. Is Thelema a right-wing political philosophy?
Strictly speaking, Thelema is not a political philosophy. Erwin Hessle is right when he states that “any form of government could be said to be consistent with Thelema. […] In reality, the only requirement Thelema imposes is that one should do one’s will.” As an amoral philosophy, there are no political injunctions or political commitments that a Thelemite must abide by. [Read More]
4. Do Thelemites treat The Book of the Law like Christians treat the Bible?
Yes, there are some Thelemites who treat Liber AL like many Christians treat their holy scriptures, namely as the verbal plenarily inspired inerrant revelations of a preternatural intelligence. Such Thelemites often take it very literally. However, this is not the only approach toLiber AL among Thelemites. [Read More]
5. How long have you been studying Thelema and are you a member of any Thelemic organizations?
I first became exposed to Crowley’s philosophy in 1988 when I encountered a copy of The Book of Thoth and his tarot deck. [Read More]
6. What do you think of the O.T.O.?
Despite the fact that this question is a bit afield of the nature and topics of this blog, it’s continual reoccurrence has persuaded me to answer it. But, before we turn our attention to what will likely be a very controversial opinion, it is important to note that there exists no official Thelemic organization. While some organizations may be larger and more visible, there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of organizations that have formed over the years centered around Crowley’s philosophy, his magical work and claiming “succession” from Crowley himself. [Read More]
7. How is stripping the occultism and mysticism from Thelema any different from Christians cherry-picking passages? Aren’t you disrespecting the thing itself by separating the two?
At first glance, I can understand how a focus on Crowley’s existentialism and the philosophical concepts of which Thelema consists as opposed to the occultic framework that surrounds these concepts would appear to be somehow dishonest. However, this is not the case. Perhaps an example or two would be helpful here. [Read More]
8. So Thelema is all about individual autonomy … how does it feel about conformity?
To begin with, individual autonomy and conformity are not necessarily opposed. A person can possess individual autonomy and still conform, whether it be to social pressures, religious pressures, political pressures or personal pressures. In terms of Thelema, there is good conformity and bad conformity. To conform in a bad way or to live inauthentically is to allow one’s choices to be determined by one’s facticity. [Read More]
9. How does Thelema interact with consumerism? Is it completely a hedonistic philosophy or is there limits? Crowley’s nature based language seems like it would lend itself well to environmentalist leanings.
Consumerism, defined as “the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts,” stands contrary to the philosophy of Thelema. As has been noted several times previously, Thelema is centered on the identification of a person’s unique will and the doing of that unique will. A person’s True Will doesn’t come from without but from within. The “desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts” is a foreign desire. [Read More]
10. Privilege and oppression are big talking points on tumblr. Oftentimes, people following “you do your thing, I’ll do mine” are accused of allowing those hierarchies to continue due to noninvolvement. How can one be a humanist while still respecting individual autonomy a la Thelema?
Thelema is entirely a humanist philosophy. “Every man and every woman is a star” (AL I.3). This verse from Liber AL is one of its most famous. The entire philosophy is centered around individual humans discovering their unique will and following it into a life of authenticity; an existence of pure joy (AL II.9). Like other forms of existentialism, humans are at the very center. [Read More]
11. Can you be Thelemic AND part of a mainstream religion?
As there are Christian existentialists, it stands to reason that a person could be a Thelemite and a member of a mainstream religion. Though not mainstream, there are many Thelemites who belong to the O.T.O. and who view and practice Thelema as a religion. However, there are several concerns that are important to consider here. [Read More]
12. How many followers of Thelema are there?
It is extremely difficult to know with any certainty how many followers of Thelema there are in the world. The U.S. Grand Lodge of the O.T.O. claims to have 43 local bodies in 25 states. [Read More]
13. Does Thelema have a “harm none” clause?
No, Thelema does not have a “harm none” clause. The only obligation of the Thelemite is do their True Will (AL I.40). [Read More]
14. I am not an expert on Crowley, but to my understanding, he was born into a wealthy family. How do finances (i.e. industrialism, working, capitalism, etc.), if at all, play a role in his work and/or life?
Your understanding of Crowley’s birth is correct. He was born into a family that was part of the landed gentry, though by no means peerage. As many have pointed out before, the family’s wealth came from brewing instead of tenanted farms but the effect was the same. Crowley never did a day of manual labor in his life. [Read More]
15. Does Thelema espouse polyamory?
Technically, the only thing that Thelema espouses is to follow your unique will with objectivity, singularity of purpose and tranquility (cf. AL I.44; Liber II). This is the only thing a Thelemite is to adopt in their life. And, everything in their life is to be a support to the accomplishing of this task. So, in this sense, no Thelema doesn’t espouse polyamory. [Read More]
16. How does the unicursal hexagram and symbolism in general play a role in Crowley’s work?
The unicursal hexagram, Crowley’s version can be found at the top of this blog, is a six-pointed star that can be drawn in one continuous line rather than by two overlaid triangles. Crowley modified it by placing a five-petaled rose within its center.[Read More]
17. What is meant by “the slaves shall serve?” Does the world that Crowley desired for operate under a harsh, socially darwinistic stratification?
In a word, yes. It is impossible to read Liber AL as arguing for anything other than a kind of social darwinian feudal stratification. As I’ve mentioned previously, Crowley belonged to an entitled class and that classism informed his view of the world, including his view of an ideal world. These may be unpleasant facts but they are facts nonetheless.[Read More]
18. Was Crowley the only person who thought of Thelema? Did he have other influences? Are there any other people with similar thoughts?
The Wikipedia entry for Thelema lists some possible direct historical antecedents to Crowley’s philosophy. For example, in the Christian New Testament, in what is traditionally referred to as The Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6.10), the Koine Greek word makes an appearance:[Read More]
19. I stumbled across a few (Christian) websites that label Crowley as a pedophile, murderer and rapist. I couldn’t find anything about this “side” of him and it sounds like propaganda. But I have to ask, is some of this true?
We cannot deny the fact that Crowley was horribly sexist, had a ferocious sexual appetite, enjoyed all kinds of kinks and fetishes (most of which are hardly remarkable today), and did not feel bound by Victorian or Christian morality (remember, Thelema is an amoral philosophy). He treated women as sexual playthings, swindling them out of money, and often leaving them much worse for having known him; he mostly left children to their own devices at the Abbey of Thelema, generally viewing them as burdensome; and he was abusive and cruel toward anyone of a different race or class. In all, there is very little about him that one would want to emulate.[Read More]
20. While I understand that the law of Thelema is seen as something outside the boundaries of Crowley as a person, I do have to ask why it is that you still regard him as a prophet? Keeping with the “fact” that he was a sexist, racist, bigot, who had “very little about him that one would want to emulate,” what is there that qualifies him as a master?
Nowhere nor at any time on this blog have I stated that I believe Crowley to be a prophet or a master.[Read More]
21. Why is Liber LXV regarded as “secret” & what meaning does it convey?
Our word secret is derived from the Latin word secretus and it means “set apart, withdrawn, hidden.” When Liber LXV or Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figurâ אדני is referred to as a “secret book” in the A∴A∴ curriculum, it is a reference to it being set apart or hidden from the Student, the first grade in the A∴A∴ system. It is one of the books given to the Probationer.[Read More]
22. I’d be curious to hear you distinguish your view from what I take to be a more orthodox Thelemic view (if there can be such a thing) under which these occult trappings are useful psychological or symbolic tools not imbued with any greater metaphysical reality. Is it just that they aren’t personally useful to you in this way? Or that even these instrumental superstitions conflict with broader philosophical commitments of yours?
In terms of Thelemic orthodoxy, there is really no such thing. In order to have an orthodoxy you must have conventions. The only practice that is authorized for a Thelemite is the doing of their will. Anything else is irrelevant.[Read More]
23. Christianity has Jehovah and Jesus as it’s central Gods. Satanism, of course, takes Satan as it’s central God. My question is, who is the central God of Thelema? Horus, Hadit and Nuit are the prominent three. Are they the ones worship (if any) is aimed towards?
To begin with, it is my understanding of Satanism that Satan is not the “central God” or worshipped in any particular fashion. Satan is rather used as a representative concept for the embracing of those parts of our nature that are repressed or controlled by ingrained social and cultural strictures. Despite the fact that some take Satan to be a real entity, I think a thorough reading of their literature would bare this understanding out.[Read More]
24. What if one has to thwart the rights of others in order to fulfill his will?
The following of their individual True Will is the chief concern of a Thelemite. Nowhere in Liber AL is the Thelemite instructed to be concerned with the rights of others. If the doing of your will includes the thwarting of the rights of another person, so be it. In fact, the very definition of being strong in Thelemic terms is having the capacity to carry out one’s will no matter the obstacles. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, Crowley adhered to a Social Darwinism that had very little to do with the poor, the mistreated or the oppressed.[Read More]
25. Could Crowley’s drug use have been the reason for Thelema? Was it his mind on drugs that lead to Aiwass appearing to him along with Nuit, Hadit and Horus’ manifestations?
I don’t find this question disrespectful or ignorant at all. There are many Thelemites who believe that Crowley’s experience with Aiwass was a result of his drug use. I am one of them.[Read More]
26. How drastic of a change can discovering your True Will cause?
The discovery of your True Will may cause drastic change.[Read More]
27. Why should one follow his will?
This is the wrong question. A person will follow their will whether they realize it or not. The appropriate question is: Why should a person cultivate an awareness of their will?[Read More]
28. What is the role of Babalon in Thelema beyond symbolism?
Turning to your question, BABALON is broadly referred to in two ways in Crowley’s writing. In Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abigni sub figurâ CLVI, a text centered on the figure of BABALON, we encounter Crowley using the symbolism to discuss a kind of “sex magick” in the curriculum of the A∴A∴ that the Exempt Adept was to master.[Read More]