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Thelema is an esoteric spiritual philosophy based on the writings of Aleister Crowley, an English author, and mystic who viewed himself as the prophet of a new age.

A chief tenet or motto, known as the Law of Thelema, is "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." The Thelemic worldview is that every individual has a true will, and insofar as a person acts according to his will, his interactions with the world are in harmony.

Aleister Crowley formed his philosophy in the early 1900s, basing his belief in himself as the prophet of a new age on a spiritual experience that he and his wife had in Egypt in 1904. By his account, a non-corporeal being identified as Aiwass dictated what became The Book of the Law to him, outlining the principles of Thelema.

The word thelema is a Greek word that is used in early Christian literature to refer to the human will, or even that of the Devil, but it is most often used to refer to the will of God. The Christian Bible uses the word in reference to God's will exclusively.

A likely precursor to Crowley's philosophy was in the satirical fiction of Francois Rabelais, a 16th-century former Franciscan and Benedictine monk, who wrote of the Abbey of Theleme as a utopia where people's desires are more fulfilled. Inhabitants of the abbey were governed by their own free will and pleasure, the only rule is "Do What Thou Wilt."

In the 18th-century, Sir Francis Dashwood adopted some of the ideas found in the writings of Rabelais when he founded an organization known as the Monks of Medmenham, which was also known as the Hellfire Club. Based at Medmenham, on the ruins of an old Cistercian abbey, the group used the same rule, "Do What Thou Wilt."

Thelema is based on Crowley's book, The Book of the Law, officially titled Liber AL vel Legis. It is made up of three chapters. Although Crowley claimed that each chapter was dictated to him by the entity known as Aiwass, there are clear similarities between it and that of Rabelais, as mentioned above. There are also resemblances between Crowley's work and play by Florence Farr, The Beloved of Hathor and Shrine of the Golden Hawk, but that may be because both Crowley and Farr were well acquainted with the teachings of Golden Dawn.

Crowley teaches that every individual has a True Will, which is the equivalent to one's purpose in life. In a commentary on The Book of the Law, Crowley explains that one's own will, in pure form, is nothing other than the divine will, so "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" is not a reference to hedonism, but a response to the divine calling.

The deities of Thelema draw from the chief gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt, the highest being the goddess Nuit, who is conceived as the Great Mother, the source of all things. The second most important deity is the god Hadit, consort of Nuit. The third deity of Thelema is Ra-Hoor-Khuit, a manifestation of Horus. Others include Hoor-paar-kraat, Babalon, and Therion.

Thelema is a mystical and magical religion. Its magick is practiced through a system of mental, spiritual, and physical exercises. Crowley spelled "magick" with a "k" to set it apart from stage magic.

Thelema incorporates rituals and practices from Easter religions with Western magical practices, particularly those from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

In Liber Oz, Crowley delineates some of the individual rights that are implied by "Do what thou wilt." These include the right to live by one's own law, to live, work, play, rest, die, eat, drink, think, speak, write, draw, paint, carve, etch, mould, build, dress, and move about as one will, to love when, where, and with whom one will, and to kill those who would thwart these rights.

Liber II: The Message of the Master Therion summarizes the Law of Thelema as "Do what thou wilt -- then do nothing else."

Modern Thelema is a syncretic philosophy and religion, and many Thelemites practice more than one religion.

Organizations that follow the tenets of Thelema today include A∴A∴, Ordo Templi Orientis, Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, the Typhonian Order, the Illuminates of Thanateros, Fraternitas Saturni, and the Thelema Society. The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn and the Temple of Set also draw heavily on Thelema, but the former is listed in the Golden Dawn category here, while the latter is listed under Satanism, for the purpose of categorization.

Religious and philosophical organizations based on the principles of Thelema are the focus of topics in this category. The organizations mentioned here, as well as other purely informational sites, and any other site that is focused on Thelemic topics are appropriate for this category or its subcategories.

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Ordo Templi Orientis

 

 

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