What is Thelema

The following information is adapted from the website of The Thelemic Order. Please visit TTO’s website for more information on the TTO membership in general.

About Thelema

For starters and most importantly, becoming a Thelemite isn’t about giving up your practice of Wicca, Paganism, Shamanism, or any other deep and meaningful part of your life. Thelema is a way of tying things together, not a replacement. Thelema is a movement originated largely by Aleister Crowley in the early 20th century. Its inspiration is a set of revelations he received while travelling in Cairo, Egypt.

Despite what some people may tell you, Thelema is not all about Crowley. No philosophical or religious movement is an entirely new idea, though they are often framed as new. Thelema occupies a central place at the pinnacle of the era of 19th century new thought movements which included a vast wave of spiritualist groups and produced the Theosophical Society, the Golden Dawn, and numerous other magical orders. That said, Crowley himself acknowledged a heavy debt to Rabelais, the medieval humanist in developing his doctrine.

You’re probably more familiar with Thelema than you might realize. A lot of its core tenets found their way into Wicca through the work of Gerald Gardner, who corresponded with, and held a charter from Crowley. That doesn’t mean Gardner was a copycat or invalid. He built on the same foundations as Crowley and others. “Do what thou will” is neither Gardner nor Crowley, but Rabelais, from about 1532. What is important is that Thelema is a living part of a long tradition of magical and esoteric thought.

What is unique about Thelema is that it and the body of writing and work around it embodied the ideals of nearly all the extant movements, and opened a pathway for the integration of any set of magical practices, spirituality, or worship of deities in a fashion more complete than the organizations which came before. We see Thelema as a natural keystone tying together the study and practice of many traditions of magic and spirituality. We see Thelemites as a natural leadership community who should be at the forefront of magical discovery and awakening. Far from “competing” with other organizations we want to see members of TTO as leaders and trend-setters throughout the wider worlds of magic and spirituality.

Magick: Active Spirituality

Spirituality is passive. It involves waiting. That isn’t really for The Thelemic Order to say. We can say that it is important to Thelema because it is a key to being able to act with the full resources of the universe available to you and to discover and enact your Will. Magic is both the ability to understand your own relationship with the universe and the ability to apply it. Crowley wrote that every person “should make Magick the keystone of his life…should learn its laws and live by them.”

We don’t have anything against people who choose a primarily “spiritual path,” limiting their interaction and study of magic to ceremonies led by others, or focused spiritual devotions concerned with deity. That said, we feel that few people really achieve their full potential that way….maybe you’re the exception…and that many people use spirituality to build a fence around magical practice, forbidding those things which fall outside of the allowed celebration or ritual. We strongly oppose that. The core of TTO, the Order General, exists to further social interaction and individual magical practice.

Forbidden Magick

“Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven”

There is no magic or art which is forbidden. 

We do not avoid subjects such as goetia, necromancy, or spirit possession because they are too “scary” to normal people.  We do not avoid subjects such as yoga or herblore because they are too “commonplace.”

Not forbidding the study or practice of magic doesn’t mean condoning every act that might accompany it.  Remember, we hold consent to be paramount, and our policies generally prohibit violating the law at Local Body events.

Not forbidding the study or practice of magic doesn’t mean condoning every act that might accompany it.

Magick vs. Magic

In the early 20th century Aleister Crowley wanted to differentiate his practice of magic from what stage magicians did.  He began to use an older spelling which is used in English through the 17th century.  He also felt that the “k” made the word more  significant in a numerological sense.

Some modern practitioners reject the “k” as pretentious, or as some Thelemite leaders have gone out of their way to give Thelema a white supremacist rep, reject it because they associate it with Thelema.   Others have taken to using magik, which is also an older variant spelling…English only standardized spellings fairly recently…for reasons of their own.

As an organization we don’t have an opinion…it’s just not that important.

These days the occult section at Barnes and Noble is a lot bigger than the stage magic section, so we aren’t all that worried about confusion. Traditional Thelemites like to use the “k” because of Crowley, but we’re more about building a bridge to modern traditions than worrying about doing things precisely the way Crowley did them.  Typically we use “magic” when speaking generically and “magick” when quoting other sources that use it.  But really, whatever works…

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