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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Thelema ("They-LEE-mah" or "They-LEH-mah") is a Greek word meaning "will" or "intention". It is also the name of a new religious movement that has arisen over the past hundred years or so and is now gradually becoming established worldwide. One of the earliest mentions of Thelemic philosophy occurs in the classic Gargantua and Pantagruel written by Francois Rabelais in 1532. One episode of this epic adventure tells of the founding of an "Abbey of Thelema" as an institution for the cultivation of human virtues, which Rabelais identified as being squarely opposite the prevailing Christian proprieties of the time. The sole rule of the Abbey of Thelema was: "Do what thou wilt". This has become one of the basic tenets of Thelemic religion today. Although touched upon by various prominent visionary thinkers in the following few hundred years, the seeds of Thelema sown by Rabelais eventually came to fruition in the early part of this century when developed by an Englishman named Aleister Crowley. Crowley was a poet, author, mountaineer, magician, and member of the occult society known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In 1904, while traveling in Egypt with his wife Rose, Crowley became inextricably involved in a series of events which he claimed to inaugurate a new aeon of human evolution. These culminated in April when Crowley entered a state of trance and wrote down the three chapters of 220 verses which came to be called The Book of the Law (also known as Liber AL and Liber Legis). Among other things, this book declared: "The word of the law is Thelema" and "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law". Crowley spent the rest of his life developing the system of Thelema as revealed by the Book of the Law. The result was a voluminous output of commentary and works relating to magick, mysticism, yoga, qabalah, and other occult subjects. Virtually all of this writing bears the influence of Thelema as interpreted and understood by Crowley in his capacity as prophet of the New Aeon. One theory holds that each chapter of the Book of the Law is associated with a particular aeon of human spiritual evolution. According to this view, Chapter Onecharacterizes the Aeon of Isis, when the archetype of female divinity was paramount. Chapter Two relates to the Aeon of Osiris, when the archetype of the slain god became prominent, and the world’s patriarchal religions became established. Chapter Three heralds the dawning of a new aeon, the Aeon of Horus, the child of the Isis and Osiris. It is in this new aeon that Thelema will be fully revealed to humanity, and will become established as the primary paradigm for the spiritual evolution of the species. Some of the essential elements of belief in Thelema are:
- "Every man and every woman is a star."
- This is usually taken to mean that each individual is unique and has their own path in a spacious universe wherein they can move freely without collision.
- "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." and "thou hast no right but to do thy will."
- Most Thelemites hold that every person possesses a True Will, a single overall motivation for their existence. The Law of Thelema mandates that each person follow their True Will to attain fulfillment in life and freedom from restriction of their nature. Because no two True Wills can be in real conflict (according to "Every man and every woman is a star"), this Law also prohibits one from interfering with the True Will of any other person. The notion of absolute freedom for an individual to follow his or her True Will is a cherished one among Thelemites. The main task of an individual setting out on the path of Thelema is to first discover his or her True Will, giving methods of self-exploration such as magick great importance. Furthermore, every True Will is different, and because each person has a unique point-of-view of the universe, no one can determine the True Will for another person. Each person must arrive at the discovery for themselves.
- "Love is the law, love under will."
- This is an important corollary to the above, indicating that the essential nature of the Law of Thelema is that of Love. Each individual unites with his or her True Self in Love, and so empowered, the entire universe of conscious beings unites with every other being in Love.
Of course, with the emphasis on freedom and individuality inherent in Thelema, the beliefs of any given Thelemite are likely to differ from those of any other. In the Comment appended to The Book of the Law it is stated that: "All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself."Although Thelema is definitely a "religion," it is a new kind of religion, one which accommodates a full range of individual beliefs, from atheism to polytheism. The important thing is that each person has the right to fulfill themselves through whatever beliefs and actions are best suited to them (so long as they do not interfere with the will of others), and only they themselves are qualified to determine what these are.
Love is the law, love under will.