What is Thelema?
Thelema is a religion which aims to secure 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 individual who experiences existence, which we call Hadit. Each event is the result of the interaction between these two opposites.
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 expresses our individual nature, similar to how the universe expresses itself through infinite manifestation. 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 your own essense and is influenced by 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 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. 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 automatically, we experience complex 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.
Thelemites may work independently or within an organization. Some Thelemites find their efforts are enhanced by involvement in a Thelemic organization. Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) is one popular choice because it provides Thelemites with a community of like-minded individuals and classes on Thelemic topics.
Skepticism and Scientific Illuminism
In studying Thelemic literature, you will notice that a scientific attitiude is strongly encouraged. Thelema holds that there is no need for blind faith in its teachings. Thelema's cosmology is rooted in empircal facts of nature: both infinite space and the individual experience (Nuit and Hadit) exist with or without their personficiation as deities. By understanding that the truth holds more value than what we choose to believe, we open ourselves up to self-criticism. Fanciful claims often serve as an opiate to the mind, while we should instead be constantly vigilant to control thought and seek the light.
In Thelema, religion is more about action than belief. By earnestly doing the prescribed practices, you will have spiritual experiences that guide you to truth. This method is called "scientific illuminism."
Liberty and the Nature of the Individual
Thelema teaches that all beauty, joy, and strength comes from within. For example, a rose does not have beauty on its own. Rather, it becomes beautiful when it is observed by a human being. Through the vehicle of our minds, we create beauty and meaning in otherwise incomprehensible phenomena.
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 discover 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 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. See also, an insightful commentary on this document. By accepting the "Law of Liberty" ("Do what thou wilt"), you acknowledge that others have these rights as well. As a result, the freedom granted by this liber prevents the violation of the rights of others.