Aleister Crowley, an English author, magician, and occultist, created the philosophical, mystical, and religious system of Thelema in the early 20th century. The word “Thelema” comes from the ancient Greek for “will” or “intention.” Crowley allegedly founded Thelema following a spiritual experience he had in Egypt in 1904, which he described in “The Book of the Law,” a central text of Thelemic mysticism.
The central tenet of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” This is commonly interpreted to mean that adherents should seek out and follow their true path, i.e., they should discover and do what they truly love with dedication and without reservation.
Thelema is influenced by a wide variety of philosophical and spiritual traditions. It incorporates, among other things, elements of Western esotericism, Eastern mysticism, paganism, and ceremonial magic. Crowley additionally incorporated aspects of Freemasonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.
Key Thelemic concepts include:
True Will: The central tenet of Thelema is the concept of “True Will,” which describes the essential essence or calling of every individual. The True Will, according to Crowley, is not the same as desire or impulse, but rather the divine purpose or mission of each individual.
Love Under Will: This expression refers to the notion that the “love” or passion that motivates a person’s actions should be guided and informed by their True Will.
Magick: Crowley spelled ritual and ceremonial magic “magick” to differentiate it from stage magic. In the context of Thelema, the purpose of alchemy is to assist the practitioner in discovering and manifesting their True Will.
The Book of the Law: This is the central sacred text of Thelema, allegedly composed by Crowley while channeling the spiritual entity Aiwass. The book introduces the main deities of the Thelemic pantheon and outlines the Law of Thelema.
Deities: The pantheon of deities in Thelema is predominantly derived from ancient Egyptian religion. The fundamental triad consists of Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit. These deities are symbolic representations of cosmic principles as opposed to actual entities.
Thelemic Holidays and Calendar: The Thelemic religious calendar contains numerous feast days and rituals, including the Gnostic Mass rituals.
It is essential to note that Thelema can be interpreted differently by its adherents, and that it is a complex system with many facets and nuances. Studying primary texts such as “The Book of the Law” or other writings by Crowley and his followers would be beneficial for gaining a deeper understanding.