History of Thelema

The philosophy of Thelema dates back to 1904 when a man named Aleister Crowley wrote The Book of the Law in Cairo, Egypt. On April 8-10 of 1904, Crowley had a series of spiritual experiences during which the book was dictated to him by an entity named Aiwass. Whether Aiwass was really a separate being or just a manifestation of Crowley's subconscious is irrelevant. The Book of the Law bears a stunning degree of beauty and sophistication which has led to its lifelong study by thousands of Thelemites across the globe.

Thelema is Inseparable From Crowley.

Some people claim that Thelema actually existed prior to Crowley. While it is true that Thelema has a number of historical antecedents, none of them represent a coherent philosophical system. For instance, the Benedictine monk François Rabelais wrote of "Thelema" as a philosophy not very much different from anarchism. It was seen as more of a social and political thing and in a sense wasn't a new idea at all. Additionally, Rabelais' Abbey of Thélème was intended as both fiction and satire.

For Rabelais, the concept of will was not different from that of whims and desires. On the other hand, Crowley's system is an elaborate mystical tradition focused on discovery of a True Will that may not always correspond to what one desires in the current moment. To distinguish between "Rabelaisian Thelema" and so-called "Aleisterian Thelema" or "Crowleyan Thelema" is an exercise in pedantry.

Even though Thelema is inseparable from Aleister Crowley, it is not "Crowleyanity." There is no worship of Crowley and he is not revered in the way figures such as Jesus are. In fact, this was something he feared and adamantly opposed. While it is true that some Thelemites are big fans of the man Aleister Crowley, this seems to be a growing trend outside of Thelema as well. It is very easy to appreciate the fascinating life he led. It is also very easy to recognize his many flaws and shortcomings.

Thelema's historical antecedents provide the benefit of producing an eclectic and many-faceted system. Thelema draws from many rich traditions, both Eastern and Western. No matter what your interest, there is sure to be an aspect of Thelema that appeals to you.

Who was Aleister Crowley?

In progress...

Further Reading