ALEISTER CROWLEY - The Philosophy of Thelema

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THELEMA

Thelema is a spiritual philosophy (referred to by some as a religion) that was developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley.
He came to believe himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon (Age) of Horus, based upon a spiritual experience that he and his wife, Rose Edith, had in Egypt in 1904.
By his account, a possibly non-corporeal or "praeterhuman" being that called itself Aiwass contacted him and dictated a text known as 'The Book of the Law' or 'Liber AL vel Legis', which outlined the principles of Thelema.

The Thelemic pantheon includes a number of deities, focusing primarily on a trinity of deities adapted from ancient Egyptian religion, who are the three speakers of 'The Book of the Law': Nuit, Hadit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit.
The religion is founded upon the idea that the 20th century marked the beginning of the Aeon (age) of Horus, in which a new ethical code would be followed; "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law".
This statement indicates that adherents should seek out and follow their own true path in life, known as their 'True Will' rather than their egoic desires.
The philosophy also emphasizes the ritual practice of Magick.
The word "Thelema" itself is the English transliteration of the Koine Greek noun θέλημα: "will", from the verb θέλω: to will, wish, purpose.
In the New Testament as well as the works of Plato, Thelema includes the ideas of will, choice, inclination, desire, including sexual desire, and pleasure.
As Crowley developed the religion he wrote widely on the topic, producing what are collectively termed the 'Holy Books of Thelema'.

Egypt and The Book of the Law: 1904

In 1904, Crowley and his new wife Rose travelled to Egypt using the pseudonym of Prince and Princess Chioa Khan, titles which Crowley claimed had been bestowed upon him by an eastern potentate.
According to Crowley's own account, Rose, who was pregnant, began to experience visions while in the country, regularly informing him that "they are waiting for you", but not providing him with any further information as to who "they" were.
It was on 18 March, after Crowley sought the aid of the Egyptian god Thoth in a magical rite, that she actually revealed who "they" were – the ancient Egyptian god Horus and his alleged messenger.
After asking the god Thoth (the Aeon Thoth ?) to clarify the matter, and getting Rose to identify the source of the message as Horus, Crowley took Rose to the Boulaq Museum, and asked her to point out Horus to him.
Then she pointed to a glass case in the distance, and insisted that this was what he sought.
It turned out to be a small funerary stele (XXVIth Dynasty) for a priest of ancient Thebes named Ankh-af-na-Khonsu.

The Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu i (also known as the Stele of Revealing) is a painted, wooden offering stele, discovered in 1858 at the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Dayr al-Bahri by François Auguste Ferdinand Mariette. It was originally made for the Montu-priest Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu, and was discovered near his coffin ensemble of two sarcophagi and two anthropomorphic inner coffins. It dates to circa 680/70 BCE, the period of the late Dynasty 25/early Dynasty 26. Originally located in the former Bulaq Museum under inventory number 666, the stele was moved around 1902 to the newly opened Egyptian Museum of Cairo (inventory number A 9422; Temporary Register Number 25/12/24/11), where it remains today.


This point of contact depicted a scene of the enthroned hawk-headed sun-god Horus with the priest making offerings before him; - above them are a falcon-winged solar disk, and the surrounding image of Nuit, goddess of the heavens, framing the whole composition.
Very significantly for Crowley, this artifact was listed in the museum catalog as Stele #666;   piece 666, the number that he had identified with since childhood - it later became known as the 'Stele of Revealing'.

θηρίον - (Therion - Greek:  beast) is a God found in the mystical system of Thelema, which was established in 1904 with Aleister Crowley's writing of The Book of the Law. Therion's female counterpart is Babalon, another Thelemic deity. He, as a Thelemic personage, evolved from that of the Beast of the Book of Revelation, whom Crowley intuitively identified himself with since childhood. Indeed, throughout his life he occasionally referred to himself as “Master Therion” or sometimes “The Beast 666”.
The  Ἀριθμὸς τοῦ θηρίου (Arithmos tou Thēriou - Number of the Beast) is the numerical value of the name of the person symbolised by the beast from the sea, the first of two symbolic beasts described in Chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation which is part of the Christian 'New Testament'.
'καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. 18Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων τὸν νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου· ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστί· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ χξϛʹ.

This is the 'Foundation Myth' of the religion of Thelema (which is the Greek word for 'the True Will', paired with Agape or Love, both of whose numerology totals 93; hence his system is known as the 93 Current).
Rose continued to insist that forces from beyond were seeking to contact him, and directed him to perform a ritual in a room with many mirrors and employing some correspondences alien to his Golden Dawn training, which he summarized as:
“To be performed before a window open to the E. or N. without incense. The room to be filled with jewels, but only diamonds to be worn. A sword, unconsecrated, 44 pearl beads to be told. Stand. Bright daylight at 12.30 noon. Lock doors. White robes. Bare feet. Be very loud. Saturday. Use the Sign of Apophis and Typhon.”
So, he acquired a translation of the text from the stele, rendered it into verse, devised what he called 'The Ritual of Invocation According to the Divine Vision of W. the Seer', and performed it upon March 20th, now known as the 'Equinox of the Gods' (and documented in his book of the same name, a full account of the experience, quoted above).
The result changed his life, the course of modern occult philosophy.
At the hours of noon on April 8th, 9th, and 10th in the year 1904, Aleister Crowley received the transmission known as 'Liber AL vel Legis': The Book of the Law, in the Victorious City of Cairo in Egypt.
While at first he claims to have rejected it, this philosophically revolutionary vision of a New 'Aeon' (Age) of Thelema was ultimately to radically transform his understanding of the universe, his practice of the Great Work, and his legacy to the innocently unsuspecting world.
Comparisons might be made with other transmissions even more recent: C.G. Jung's 'Septem Sermones ad Mortuos' (Seven Sermons to the Dead), poet W.B. Yeats’ odd work 'A Vision', Blavatsky's 'Book of Dyzan', and even 'OAHSPE' and the 'Book of Mormon'.
And if we remain even remotely willing to suspend our disbelief sufficiently to accept the validity of any of these, it would seem rather unfair not to extend the same courtesy to Crowley.
The full title of the book is 'Liber Al vel Legis, sub figura CCXX', as delivered by XCIII=418 to DCLXVI, and it is commonly referred to as 'The Book of the Law'.
Through the reception of this book, Crowley proclaimed the arrival of a new stage in the spiritual evolution of humanity, to be known as the 'Æon of Horus' - ( aeon here is not used in the sense of a spiritual entity, but rather as a division of time).
Crowley claimed he heard a disembodied voice talking to him, claiming that it was coming from a being Crowley named as Aiwass the Minister of Hoor-Paar-Kraat.
Crowley's disciple and later secretary Israel Regardie believed that this voice came from Crowley's subconscious, but opinions among Thelemites differ widely.
Crowley said that he wrote down everything the voice told him over the course of the next three days, and subsequently titled it 'Liber AL vel Legis' or 'The Book of the Law'.
In the preface to the 'Book of the Law', Crowley explains that the ideas presented within the book are symbolized by Egyptian Gods for 'literary convenience'.
The Book declares that a new Aeon (Age) for mankind had begun, and that Crowley would serve as its prophet.
As a supreme moral law, Nuit declared "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law", and that people should learn to live in tune with their "True Will". 
The story goes that although this event would prove to be a cornerstone in Crowley's life, being the origin of the philosophy of Thelema, he claimed at the time he was unsure what to think about the whole situation.
He wrote that he was "dumbfounded about what to do with The Book of the Law" and eventually decided to ignore the instructions that it commanded him to perform, which included taking the Stele of Revealing from the museum, fortifying his own island and translating the Book into all the world's languages.
Instead he simply sent typescripts of the work to several occultists whom he knew, and then "put aside the book with relief".

The Philosophy of Thelema

The Thelemic pantheon includes a number of deities, focusing primarily on a trinity of deities adapted from ancient Egyptian religion, who are the three speakers of 'The Book of the Law': Nuit, Hadit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit.
The religion is founded upon the idea that the 20th century marked the beginning of the Aeon (Age) of Horus, in which a new ethical code would be followed; "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law".

See THE BOOKS OF FOUNDATIONB - BOOK VI - πρᾶξις - Praxis
for a full discussion of the 'True Will'

This statement indicated that adherents, who are known as Thelemites, should seek out and follow their own 'True Will' rather than their ego's desires.
The religion also emphasizes the ritual practice of Magick.
The word "Thelema" itself is the English transliteration of the Koine Greek noun θέλημα "will", from the verb θέλω: to will, wish, purpose.
As Crowley developed the religion he wrote widely on the topic, producing what are collectively termed the Holy Books of Thelema.
He also included into it ideas from occultism, Yoga and both Eastern and Western mysticism, especially the Qabalah.
According to Crowley, every individual has a True Will, to be distinguished from the ordinary wants and desires of the ego and this includes the goal of attaining self-realization by one's own efforts, without the aid of God or other divine authority.
'Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law' for Crowley refers not to hedonism, fulfilling everyday desires, but to acting in response to the True Will - which relates to Glanvill's, Schopenhauer's (see right) and Hitler's concept of the Will.
The Thelemite is a mystic who bases their actions on striving to discover and accomplish their True Will.
When a person does their True Will, it is like an orbit, their niche in the universal order, and the universe assists them.
In order for the individual to be able to follow their True Will, the everyday self's socially-instilled inhibitions may have to be overcome via de-conditioning.
Crowley believed that in order to discover the True Will, one had to free the desires of the subconscious mind from the control of the conscious mind, especially the restrictions placed on sexual expression, which he associated with the power of divine creation.
The spiritual quest to discover the True Will is known in Thelema as the Great Work.

Thelema draws its principal gods and goddesses from Ancient Egyptian religion.
The highest deity in the cosmology of Thelema is in fact a goddess, Nuit (see left).
She is the night sky arched over the Earth symbolized in the form of a naked woman.
She is conceived as the Great Mother, the ultimate source of all things.
The second principal deity of Thelema is the god Hadit (see right), conceived as the infinitely small point within a circle, complement and consort of Nuit.
Hadit symbolizes manifestation, motion, and time.
He is also described in 'Liber AL vel Legis' as "the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star."
He identifies himself as the point in the center of the circle, the axle of the wheel, the cube in the circle, "the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star," and the worshiper's own inner self.
Hadit has been interpreted as the inner spirit of man, the Elixir Vitae.
When juxtaposed with Nuit in 'The Book of the Law', Hadit represents each unique point-experience.
These point-experiences in aggregate comprise the sum of all possible experience, Nuith.
Hadit, "the Great God, the lord of the sky," is depicted on the Stele of Revealing in the form of the winged disk of the Sun, Horus of Behdet (also known as the Behdeti).
However, while the ancient Egyptians treated the Sun and the other stars as separate, Thelema connects the sun-god Hadit with every individual star.
Furthermore, 'The Book of the Law' says: "Every man and every woman is a star."
In 'The Book of the Law' he says; "I am alone: there is no god where I am.".
He is "the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star.".
He is identified with kundalini; in 'The Book of the Law' he says, "I am the Secret Serpent coiled about to spring: in my coiling there is joy. If I lift up my head, I and my Nuit are one. If I droop down mine head, and shoot forth venom, then is rapture of the earth, and I and the earth are one. There is great danger in me...".
Hadit is the Fire of Desire at the Heart of Matter (Nuit).
The combination of the upward-pointing triangle of Hadit and the downward-pointing triangle of Nuit forms the Star of Spirit (the Hexagram). The union of the infinitely small Hadit and the infinitely great Nuit causes an explosive rapture which leads to samadhi.

His symbols are our Sun, the serpent, the Fire Snake, the star Sothis, the planet Pluto, the Will, the winged globe (see right), and the hidden flame.

The third deity in the cosmology of Thelema is Ra-Hoor-Khuit, a manifestation of Horus.
He is symbolized as a throned man with the head of a hawk who carries a wand.
He is associated with the Sun and the active energies of Thelemic magick.
Other deities within the cosmology of Thelema are Hoor-paar-kraat (or Harpocrates) (see right), god of silence and inner strength, the brother of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Babalon, the goddess of all pleasure, known as the Virgin Whore and Therion, the beast that Babalon rides, who represents the wild animal within man, a force of nature.

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