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What is Thelema?


Thelema is an occult philosophy/religion that embraces libertinism and teaches that people should have the freedom to do whatever they want. Thelema was taught by Aleister Crowley, an occultist and writer, in the early part of the twentieth century. One of the main tenets of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Followers of Thelema call themselves Thelemites.

In 1904 Crowley wrote The Book of the Law (also known as Liber AL). He claimed that, while he was in a trance-like state, the book was dictated to him by an entity called Aiwass, whom Crowley considered to be his personal guardian angel. The Book of the Law is “scripture” to Thelemites, and Crowley is the prophet of Thelema. Interpretation of The Book of the Law is left up to individual Thelemites.

The word thelema is Greek in origin; it means “choice” or “will.” The word is found in the Bible in many places. For example, in Matthew 6:10 Jesus’ model prayer contains these words: “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” The Greek word for “will” in this verse is thelema.

Thelemites speak of “the Great Work,” by which they mean the process of attaining knowledge, conversing with one’s “Holy Guardian Angel,” and accomplishing one’s “True Will.” The True Will in Thelema is an individual’s unique purpose as dictated by his or her nature. Those who discover their true nature (and therefore their true desires in life) and see it through to the end will be satisfied; those who never find their true desires are doomed to wander aimlessly through life. Crowley wrote, “The most common cause of failure in life is ignorance of one’s own True Will, or of the means by which to fulfill that Will” (Magick, Book 4, p. 127).

Thelema seeks to cast off all restraint. The main rule is that there are no rules. Thelemites are free to pursue any type of activity as long as it does not interfere with others’ pursuit of their own destiny. Thelema strongly promotes sexual liberation: “Take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will!” (Liber AL, I:51). Thelema also involves magick, yoga, astrology, and mysticism. It teaches reincarnation and astral projection and even mixes in some Gnosticism and Hermeticism. Rituals include the use of pentagrams, sacrificial altars, and sun-worship. Spiritual beings in Thelema include certain Egyptian and Greek gods.

Thelema is rooted in outright demonic deception. The appeals to the lust of the flesh and the promise of secret knowledge are similar to the serpent’s temptation in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5–6). Christians should stay away from Thelema and all other occult philosophies and practices. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022