What is Thelema?
Thelema is a philosophy and method of securing individual liberty through a paradigm of human strength, joy, and beauty. It begins with two basic principles. One of these is the realm of infinite possibilities. We call this principle Nuit. The other is the concept of the individual experience, which we call Hadit. Each individual event flows from and is a manifestation of the infinite sea of possible outcomes.
In the same way, every human being is a manifestation of the eternal and the infinite. We are an inseparable part of the cosmos. It is because of this that each of us has a True Will which is a perfect expression of our deepest nature. According to Thelema, the sole duty of every human being is to do their True Will. In fact, Thelema is the Greek word meaning "will."
The Nature of the True Will
The True Will stems from the sum of all forces in your life. Some of these you share with other things in the Universe. For instance, you live on Earth and are subject to the same gravity as other things on Earth. Other things, such as your specific DNA or your particular experiences are fairly unique.
To use a simple object as an example, the true will of a sunflower seed is to grow under certain conditions. Some seeds will not grow into sunflowers because they do not encounter the experience of being planted in the proper environment. Other seeds may be eaten instead. Further still, some seeds may be the start of an entirely new species of plant through genetic mutation.
Humans are more complex than sunflower seeds. We have personalities and reasoning minds. We also encounter a much wider array of experiences during our lifetime. It is many times more difficult for us to discover and do our True Will. At the same time, it is infinitely more rewarding. Whereas a sunflower seed goes about the course of its existence completely unconscious of its actions, we experience complex and wonderful thoughts and feelings.
By discovering our True Will and acting in accordance with it, we act in perfect harmony with Nature. As an expression of our truest self, this Will empowers us to live a life of joy and fulfillment. We only live for a brief period of time. Why waste it?
Discovering the True Will
Besides merely positing that a True Will exists, Thelema offers instruction in discovering it. This instruction can be found in Thelemic texts called "libers," or alternately "libri." The recommended methods include yogic meditation, daily ritual, and various techniques for cultivating discipline and self knowledge. One excellent example includes Liber Jugorum.
Thelemites may work independently and there is absolutely no requirement to join an organization. In spite of this, many Thelemites find their efforts greatly enhanced by membership in a Thelemic organization. Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) is one popular choice because it provides Thelemites with a community of like-minded individuals.
OTO also provides a service called initiation. During an initiation, the candidate experiences a sequence of events which impart teachings about the mysteries of the universe and the Self. By studying these teachings carefully, initiates gain valuable insight into the nature of the Law of Thelema and how to best conduct themselves to be strong, free individuals.
Skepticism and Scientific Illuminism
In studying Thelemic literature, you will notice that skepticism and the scientific method are strongly advocated. Thelema holds that there is no need for blind faith in its teachings. By earnestly doing the prescribed practices, you can and will have spiritual experiences. Each practice can be tested and confirmed. This method is called "scientific illuminism," or "the method of science, the aim of religion."
Skepticism, in this context, means that a Thelemite will suspend both belief and disbelief in an idea until they have either experienced or observed its veracity. As such, there is a significant number of atheistic Thelemites. Superstition and charlatanism have no place in Thelema.
Liberty and the Nature of the Individual
Thelema does not teach that there is a god in the Judeo-Christian sense. Instead, each human being is his or her own god and the center of his or her own universe. Thelema teaches that all beauty, joy, and strength comes from within. A rose does not have beauty on its own. It is only beautiful when it is observed. By the very act of observation and experience, we create meaning.
As implied in previous sections, each one of us bears within us a shard of the universal will. Your True Will is completely unique and is the sole course of "right" conduct in your life. Nobody else can tell you what your True Will is: you have to experience it for yourself. In order to be able to do this and be your authentic self, you must have the freedom to act without unnecessary inhibitions and restrictions.
Liber Oz is the Thelemic declaration of the rights of Man. In a nutshell, it states that every man and every woman is absolutely free to act in accordance with his or her True Will. By accepting Oz, you acknowledge that others have these rights as well. As a result, the freedom granted by this liber does not excuse the violation of the rights of others.