Aleister Crowley and the Thelema religion
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
The 20th century marked the birth of many different astrological and mystic religions. The Thelma religion was among those named after the Greek word for “will” or “intention.” It was founded by Edward Alexander Crowley, better known as Aleister Crowly.
His “Book of Law,” on which the religion is based, was allegedly dictated to him by Holy Guardian Angel called Aiwass in 1904.
The “Thelemite” and its beliefs
There is no standard or principle guiding what one must do or believe in to be considered a believer of Thelema, commonly referred to as a “Thelemite.” The literal definition of the “Thelemite” is “one who does as he pleases.”
In the “Book of Law,” Crowley writes that “Each star is unique, and each orbit apart; indeed, that is the corner-stone of my teaching, to have no standard goals or standard ways, no orthodoxies and no codes.”
The purpose of the religion is to work to rise to a higher state of existence and unite the self with the higher powers. The Law of Thelema dictates that Thelemites live in accordance to one’s “True Will,” or their ultimate purpose and place in life.
Thelemites believe that each person has unique talents and potentials, and while seeking out their True Self, these qualities should not be sacrificed or come in the way of others’ pursuit of their destiny.
Astrology, cosmology, and deities
Thelema has many philosophies rooted in different branches of spirituality, astrology, cosmology, magick, and mysticism. It also teaches reincarnation and astral projection. Other religions that it drew its influence from are Jewish Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Buddhism, and Vedic philosophy.
“Its main deities are based on ancient Egyptian religions and beliefs.”
The most frequently discussed deities in Thelema are Nuit, Hadit, and Ra Hoor Khuit, who are equitable to the Egyptian deities Isis, Osiris, and Horus.
Nuit is the highest of all deities, conceived as a mother, and the source of all things. Hadit symbolizes motion and time. Ra Hoor Khuit is thought to be related to the Sun and the components of Thelemic magick.
Many of the Thelemic symbols and imageries have been associated with Satanism, mostly due to many misunderstandings. These include the common perception that all occult workings must involve Satan or erroneous rumors that circulated about the religion.
Thelema’s influence on today
Even though Crowley had passed away in 1947, his influence upon many famous musicians, philosophers, occultists, and luminaries has been apparent. Although some may not have been life-long believers, instead dabbling in Thelema then quickly losing interest, others have perhaps incorporated its values in their lives.
A famous Thelemite is David Bowie. This was apparent in his lyrics of Quicksand:
I’m closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley’s uniform
I’m not a prophet or a stone age man
Just a mortal with potential of a superman”
Another is Jimmy Page, guitarist and founder of the rock band Led Zeppelin, who in 1970 purchased Crowley’s former home, the Boleskine House, on Loch Ness in Scotland.
Even The Beatles were among the believers, as they featured Crowley’s face among the famous people on the album cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (he’s at the top left-hand corner back row). John Lennon even admitted this is one of his last interviews:
The whole Beatle idea was to do what you want, right? To take your own responsibility, do what you want and try not to harm other people, right? ‘Do what thou wilst,’ as long as it doesn’t hurt somebody.”
Despite most who practice Thelema do not publicly disclose their affiliation, these are a couple of the most notable exceptions. It is also worth noting that many celebrities may have stumbled upon Thelema without formally studying the literature of Crowley.
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
Learn about the founding of Neurotheology and where the religious mind comes from.
Find out the benefits of being a believer and why practicing religion can lead to a longer life.