Why Thelemites Lack Enlightenment

For many people, religion is an important thing, moreso than spirituality. Although variations exist, the human animal has evolved socially in such a way that religion fulfills various important functions that are not adequately fulfilled elsewhere, and for the past several hundred years, in the west, these duties have been fulfilled mainly by Christianity. A church is a place for people to meet, to socialize, to find others of similar beliefs, to court, to find solace and guidance, and to celebrate, among other things. Many people would do just as well as Atheists, so long as they were allowed to keep their church. Meanwhile many Atheists form Atheist groups which are meant to fulfill the functions of the church, even going so far as to proselytize their spiritual beliefs, or in their case a lack thereof.

Crowley recognized this basic social need for religion in most people, even those seeking spiritual enlightenment. Meanwhile Christianity, the current forerunner, generally frowns upon spiritual enlightenment, to say the least. Even considering the resent emergence of neo-pagan religions, these religions, at their best, barely manage to adequately meet the duties that even the smaller Christian churches can do quite well, while at the same time being just as detrimental, restrictive, and even malicious towards any individuals seeking enlightenment. The obvious solution would be for the enlightened to have their own religion, but in practice this idea fails as they tend to lack the necessary numbers to successfully perform the community functions of a church while their perspectives and beliefs are so dramatically varied and at times conflicting they lack the unity and cohesion of a religion.

Crowley’s solution to this problem was Thelema. Basically he was trying to create a religion to socially and spiritually satisfy the masses, attracting a large enough parish to fulfill all of the functions of the church, while at the same time leaving the group open to, and open ended enough to attract, those seeking enlightenment. The spiritual aspect of Thelema was really only meant for the unenlightened among the masses, not the enlightened who were there to receive the social benefits of the religion, not the spiritual.

But in practice Thelema has failed miserably. The OTO, the biggest proponent of the religion, has already died and been resurrected. Although the group may be able to point to rising numbers, the group still hasn’t shown large enough numbers in any single region for it to fulfill the community functions of the church, nor is it making significant gains to where we can assume this will happen within our lifetimes. Thelema has not done well in attracting general parishioners, who seem content to remain with Christianity, and without these parishioners there is no point in keeping Thelema around, because it fails to serve anybody in any capacity.

Absent Thelema, we are still left with Crowley’s works. These are largely quoted as gospel truth, by people who often times can’t understand the denotation of the sentences being quoted, and Crowley himself is transformed from being a practitioner’s peer to a Christ figure that is assumed to have been at an unattainable level, in other words we cannot be as Crowley was, we can only trust in the truth of what he has imparted to us. Most of his followers assume that by learning and following Crowley’s works they will eventually reach some spiritual attainment, a very Christian perspective, and in doing so they have become, like the neo-pagan religions, little more than Christians with different books.

One problem is there is very little attainment to be gained from what Crowley has left us. Even the great secrets of the OTO, which haven’t been well guarded and are easy enough to find and read, offer very little. Crowley was a remarkable teacher and at his worst still a competent magician. I credit Crowley with being solely responsible for me being able to learn the tarot as well as I have, and also with introducing me to quite a few of the subjects that can be categorized under magick. But Crowley’s works weren’t comprehensive guides, they were beginner manuals. The great secrets of Crowley’s works are the basics that lay the foundations for higher attainment.

This isn’t to say Crowley only knew the basics. His tarot deck implies a far deeper understanding of magick and the universe then is ever betrayed in his written works. The Book of Thoth essay though is only an introduction to tarot, despite being typically described as an advanced text.

Crowley never meant for his works to be the alpha and omega of a person’s spiritual attainment. They are just a foundation, enough information and ideas to get a neophyte to the next stage, and not necessarily filled with truth either, just being what the neophyte needs to know in the beginning. It is thought that any true practitioner will, upon completion of that stage, cast off Crowley’s teachings and forge a path of their own, eventually reaching a point of enlightenment and attainment to where they can consider themselves an adept in magick and an equal to Crowley.

Those that are Thelemites, and followers of Crowley, who fail to cast off the shackles of their religion, who expect to find secrets to the universe in introductory texts, who see Crowley not as a man or a peer or something to be surpassed but as infallible and unattainable, will never know spiritual enlightenment, because they cannot spiritually evolve, and they cannot follow their spiritual path and find truth for themselves as all practitioners must.

22 Responses to Why Thelemites Lack Enlightenment

  1. IAO131 says:

    93 my friend,

    No offense but it seems you have no read much of Aleister Crowley himself if you believe this:

    ” Basically he was trying to create a religion to socially and spiritually satisfy the masses, attracting a large enough parish to fulfill all of the functions of the church, while at the same time leaving the group open to, and open ended enough to attract, those seeking enlightenment. The spiritual aspect of Thelema was really only meant for the unenlightened among the masses, not the enlightened who were there to receive the social benefits of the religion, not the spiritual.”

    Perhaps all you know of Thelema is through the OTO but this would be similar to judging Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church, it really just doesn’t make sense.

    “Crowley never meant for his works to be the alpha and omega of a person’s spiritual attainment.”

    Yes, he did. This only belies your lack of reading of him! He wrote three or more full commentaries on the Book of the Law as well as 50+ essays on Thelema as well as poetry, etc.

    Saying that “Thelemites cannot spiritually evolve” based on non-existent evidence is pretty harsh my friend. Feel free to visit the Journal of Thelemic Studies at ThelemicStudies.com for a group of Thelemites who are nothing like what you describe. It only belies the ignorance of the attacker when they attack something for what it ISNT… people in philosophy call this ‘a straw man,’ but in this case it seems just like bad research. I am glad Crowley helped you learn the Tarot though. I am not sure if you noticed, but his entire Book of Thoth as well as the images on the Tarot themselves are heavily influenced by the philosophy and symbology of Thelema.

    IAO131
    (Creator & editor of the Journal of Thelemic Studies)

  2. Rob says:

    I got around to looking at your journal and your personal website, and I’ll be adding both to the sidelinks as soon as I get around to it. They are some of the better spiritual websites that I’ve seen, Thelema based or otherwise.

    In may have been harsh to say that Thelemites cannot spiritually evolve, and I’ll admit my intent may have been better expressed by saying that Thelemites are restricted in reaching the full potential of their spiritual evolution, which is of a very limited scope.

    Hessle’s article in your journal is a good example of what I’m talking about. I did enjoy Mr Hessle’s wonderful article where he successfully argues against some of the common misinterpretations of Do What Thou Wilt which have unfortunately become gospel truth among segments of the community. My only criticism is that I believe he has erroneously made certain blanket assumptions concerning an individual’s will, but it is a minor flaw which has no bearing on the majority of his argument.

    I enjoyed reading the article, and at the same time I enjoy writing those kinds of articles and will, no doubt, do it from time to time, but ultimately I have to admit that it’s little more than a guilty pleasure. I suppose Crowley may have been privy to some minor tidbit of information I may not yet possess and by scrutinizing one of his works in great detail I may stumble upon it, but beyond that I see no spiritual purpose to analyzing Crowley’s works to such a degree.

    In the end, I don’t really need to know exactly what Crowley meant by Do What Thou Wilt. I don’t need Crowley to tell me his philosophy to abide by, I’m quite capable of coming up with my own, and I have access to all of the same source material he did.

    As an incarnate being, the highest attainments Crowley could have achieved are those of an adept and an elder. Being an adept it only goes to reason that I am at least Crowley’s peer, not his inferior. My point being, even if I were to draw my own conclusions and those conclusions were in complete contrast to Crowley’s, my ideas couldn’t be invalidated only on the basis of my spiritual attainment.

    On the contrary, as an adept, my own developed philosophies would hold more validity concerning my spiritual path than anything Crowley may have come up with. After all, his path is not mine, and even Crowley lacked the hubris to truly believe that his own path could be blanketed across all people, even if it were generalized.

    And this brings us back to the basic tenet of Thelema, Do What Thou Wilt, or in other words Do Whatever You Want, or if you want to get more in depth To Your Own Path Be True. Crowley was specifically trying to make Thelema open enough so that those attempting to achieve spiritual evolution would have the freedom to do so.

    Crowley was prolific as a writer, but that doesn’t mean that what he wrote wasn’t basic information, or that he had provided a complete system to achieve his level of attainment. In the end a practitioner following the Thelemic texts will never manage to be Crowley’s equal, let alone surpass him.

    Crowley himself did not follow a system. He explored different beliefs, was a practicing magician who experimented, took risks, and at times made mistakes. He honed his abilities as best he could and sought truth to the best of his abilities, eventually developing ideas and philosophies. This is what an adept does, and this is how spiritual evolution occurs.

    As for post-Crowley Thelemic works what we have are people who are not developing new ideas or even expanding on Crowley’s ideas as much as they’re analyzing what Crowley wrote and how it should be interpreted. Crowley is no longer an adept, he is a Christ-figure, a person that has reached a higher attainment than what was thought possible, and an attainment we can never hope to reach on our own.

    That’s not to say that a Thelemite can never evolve spiritually, but if they did they would cease to be a Thelemite and would instead have found their own spiritual philosophies. So long as a person allows themselves to be restricted by Crowley’s views and Crowley’s path and Crowley’s works they’ll never be an adept. Those that succeed will be those that take from Crowley’s works whatever they find of value and realize that it is only a tool to help reach the next phase of their own evolution, and not a system designed to lead a neophyte to their ultimate spiritual state.

  3. Liara Covert says:

    Lots of people have theories about what is or isn’t “good” for you. The reason for your existence may be to discern what has meaning for you regardless of other views. Each person can develop courage to explore spirituality and that has nothing to do with the versions of religion that are man-made interpretations of the “truth.”

  4. duke says:

    Peace be with the moderator, as well as those reading this message.( if it is not censored :-)
    The time has come.
    I am here to bring judgment to the living and the dead. The harvest is ripe.
    Pass this on to all fellow believers.

    The Faithful Witness,
    Duke

  5. IAO131 says:

    93 Rob,

    Thanks for adding links to my site and your words about them…

    I agree with most of what you say except that I think analyzing Crowley’s works are important for (a) Occultism as a whole and (b) the philosophy of Thelema. Anyone who has studied occultism should know the profound impact Crowley has had…

    IAO131
    (ThelemicStudies.com)

  6. Psyche says:

    Basically he was trying to create a religion to socially and spiritually satisfy the masses, attracting a large enough parish to fulfill all of the functions of the church, while at the same time leaving the group open to, and open ended enough to attract, those seeking enlightenment.

    I remain unconvinced that Thelema was ever intended for “the masses”. It seems unrealistic to assume that the majority of people would be interested in pursuing self-development in an active and conscious way. Surface platitudes are found in abundance along the middle class, but deeper engagement is often lacking.

  7. C.E. says:

    It seems to me unlikely that any ‘adept’ would be so narrow minded to brand thelema as a religion and then further assume that its only function is to serve the religous masses. By its very essence, Thelema is against everything we associate religion with today. If you’d even bothered to read a sample of thelemic writings you would know this. There will always be dogmatists, fools that men adore and folk like you. Always.

    • Rob says:

      There’s a huge difference between an argument and a statement. It’s not enough to just say someone is wrong. It’s best to provide evidence that they are wrong. Failing that, try putting forth supporting ideas and facts that make your position look more favorable, or attempt to disprove supporting ideas and facts of the original argument to make it seem less favorable. Note mean spirited name calling, which may or may not be appropriate, in no way validates or invalidates any argument. Behavior such as yours may be the norm among the uncultured dregs of the Internet, but it’s generally frowned upon by intelligent society.

      I fail to see how the essence of Thelema is against everything we associate with religion, but then you failed to provide a single example, and I’m not even sure what you might have meant. Are you referring to Christianity? To all religions? I’ve read most everything published under Crowley’s name, some unpublished stuff, Frater Achad’s work, many modern Thelemites, and more Golden Dawn stuff than even Crowley had access too, and I still don’t get where you’re coming from. I’ve also seen the OTO in action, and I can tell you that Thelema, as practiced by them, is very much like every other religion I’ve seen.

      Your quote about me being narrow-minded because we don’t agree, or moreso because I’ve more than likely said something negative about your spiritual beliefs, wreaks of the same sentiment of Christians who claim that if scientists and Atheists were just more open minded they’d see the truth of Creationism. I’d say, that as a Thelemite, at the very least you’re in dire need of some introspection about not only how much of a religion Thelema is, but how much of a religious zealot you might be.

      In any case, if you feel the need to reply to this, or anything else here, please take the time to fully flesh out your arguments and support what you have written. After all the comment form here is a forum for intelligent discourse and you only do a disservice to yourself and your reputation by making a fool of yourself.

  8. Gez says:

    I’m in agreement with you Rob. I started reading Crowley years ago, the reason being that I was attracted to the individualism that Thelema seemned to be offering, and saw it much as a philosophy, a way of approaching Magick- a philosophy of Magick if you like, a springboard towards my own enlightenment, a template, nothing more. Being well aware that Crowley had been dead for many decades, and Magick had moved on, Chaos Magick as an example, I was interested in Crowley’s approach to Magick more than anything. It really saddned me to see it becoming another religion, I don’t think Crowley ever intended it to become a label, a be-all-and-end-all, the way so many religions are, a ‘closed shop’, with him elevated to the position of a Thelemic Christ figure, in fact from what I’ve understood of his writings this is the complete antithesis of what he was trying to achieve. As I understand it, (and I may be wrong), Crowley was the Prophet of The Book of the law, not a Prophet for all mankind, even though the book has a message for mankind about the coming changes in human consciousness. I always found it pertinent how the book reads like a personal letter to whomever reads it, I thought that was part of it’s message. I had a shocking wake-up call when I realised that it had become another branded fringe religion, similar to say Scientology, (rather ironic with the past Parsons-Hubbard connection). There are certain websites dedicated to the beast where one dares not even attempt any intelligent open honest critique of Thelema or Crowley, one is immediatley seen as ‘not belonging to the club’ as it were, this is especially true of the OTO- just like any religion-fringe or mainstream, it’s the Magickal community all sliced up into neat little labels, ( and the OTO much prefer the word religion to the word magick) just similar to all the christian churches, catholic, protestant, anglican, methodist etc. I have great respect for Crowley and his works, he was a genius of HIS time, and I think that many Thelemites don’t get this, and so Thelema becomes ossified, reactionary, does not evolve, sounds like every other religion to me. My own opinion these days is that the true heirs to Crowley are the Chaos magicians, and with a growing number of them proficient in basic sorcery techniques, and bored with what they now see as the dead end of post-modernism, plus still with a healthy disrespect and outright loathing of religions, and anything static, (fringe or mainstream), are incoperating Thelemic symbolism/techniques aswell as many others into some kind of Chaos Mysticism, and rediscovering The Great Work as it is known, evolving it. If you’ve not already heard of them check out The Baptist’s Head and Openenlightenment sites to see this in action. Anyway, great article, an interesting read, many thanks.

  9. I agree with IAO131, almost every paragraph of this post reveals your lack of familiarity with Crowley’s writings.

    • Rob says:

      I’ll cite Crowley’s writings that specifically deal with the OTO and how it should be run. Again and again and again there is a theme of proselytization. It clearly states that members are not only encouraged to spread the messages of Thelema, but it is their duty. Not only are they supposed to try and convert their friends and loved ones, but they’re specifically told to make new friends so they can convert them.

      And everyone is allowed into Thelema. Every man and woman of good health that pays the money is entitled to up to third degree initiation.

      It’s pretty clear that Crowley was set on expanding Thelema as much as possible and hoped it would become a new major religion (which it didn’t). Crowley’s Libers which talk about the role of the OTO and the services it offers seem to point to a much larger organization that has much more money and power available than the OTO did in his lifetime, or even does today.

      Not to mention all of Crowley’s prophecies about the new Aeon, specifically in regards to his own importance and the importance of his teachings in it.

      Have I misinterpreted anything so far?

      As for the rest, you only have to spend some time dealing with members of the OTO or self-proclaimed Thelemites to get an idea of what I’m talking about. It’s not true of everybody, but by most Crowley is cited as gospel truth. Something cannot be correct if it goes against what Crowley wrote. Often times Crowley’s works are misinterpreted. And Crowley’s works are seen as being a complete system to reach spiritual attainment.

      And it would take me a very long time to cite everything I need to argue this, but Crowley’s works fall far short of spiritual attainment. In fact Crowley knew far more than he ever wrote down or shared, so following Crowley’s lead you’ll never even make it as far as he did (in fact I believe there’s a passage in the Book of the Law where this is implied).

      And the OTO itself hasn’t done anything new since Crowley’s death. Despite Crowley being prolific through out his life, the members of the key Thelemic organization haven’t published much in terms of new material or tried to further explore spiritual subjects. And almost everything that has been published has been either unpublished works of Crowley or commentary on Crowley’s works. The one major person within the OTO who tried to explore new spiritual avenues and come up with new ideas after Crowley’s death, Kenneth Grant, was kicked out for doing just that.

      So I’ll ask you, what part of Thelema haven’t I read or have I misinterpreted? Where is the evidence that contradicts either Crowley’s vision or how Thelema is currently practiced?

  10. Ahmad Alhour says:

    Greetings Rob,
    I would like to introduce myself first; I’m Ahmad Alhour, a self-initiated Thelemite and a man filled with Joy and Curiosity to explore and discover every dimension within and without :)

    I have to say that I felt a little down in me when I read the article above just before I started to read the comments.
    Well, since IAO131 has made many things clear, I agree with him on most of what he said about Thelema and Crowley and therefore I’m not going to repeat his arguments here ;)

    What I would like, truly, to note and embark on is: What you have said about the nowadays-OTO is kinda true… But that doesn’t move me or interest me in a way… I doubt if it even moves most of the Thelemites that I know whom can be counted 60+ individuals of both sexes ;)
    Now from that, I would like to start my arguments with no heart feelings towards you but Love, Respect and Regards…

    0. What’s Crowley got to do with Thelema anyway is that he wrote it down… he’s the founder!
    That’s it! Easy, right?
    http://hermetic.com/webster/crowley-thelema.html

    1. As a self-initiated Thelemite I state with confidence that even my initiated friends in the OTO see Crowley that way!
    So with my respects, you’re not making any point out of pointing to Crowley as the only source of Thelema.
    He was a teacher, and he taught me to be my own “Existential Reference and Reality,” in every meaning that saying carries.

    2. Every individual can initiate himself to the philosophy and practice of Thelema through the Libers Crowley wrote, such as (only for example):
    *** Curriculum for studying the A.’.A.’. materials:
    http://hermetic.com/93beast.fea.st/
    http://hermetic.com/crowley/aa/

    *** Materials from the OTO:
    http://hermetic.com/crowley/oto/

    Not forgetting to mention that you can practice Thelemic Magick without being in an order through such books as:
    Magick in Theory and Practice:
    http://hermetic.com/crowley/

    Magick Without Tears:
    http://hermetic.com/crowley/magick-without-tears/

    Liber ABA (Book 4):
    http://hermetic.com/crowley/book-4/

    3. So, since every individual can initiate themselves to the theory and practice of Thelema, then there’s no need to judge Thelema through the actions of one organization. I mean, the OTO is not the only representative for Thelema in the world of Man :D
    And hence, you shouldn’t generalize Thelema to be the new-religion-project!
    We Thelemites, when promulgating the Law of Thelema, we tell people the following statement, which is true: “There is Religion in Thelema for those who want it, and there’s Freedom from Religion in Thelema for those who want it.”

    See, and that’s the work of promulgating Thelemites… And they count like more than 200 or 300 if not a thousand!!!

    If the OTO is trying to make out of Thelema a new-religion-project, then that’s the label of the OTO not THELEMA… got my point mate ;) :)

    3. Crowley has made an astonishing achievement when structuring down Magick in his books, which provided a complete system which can be taught to anyone with it’s symbolism. And by “complete” I don’t refer to Ideal Perfection but to completeness in terms of Well-Formed-Outcome orientation that leads to manifestation and achievement of the very important foundation in all traditions of Magick which is the exploration, achievement and discovery of the most inner magickal potential… The Yod, Kundalini, Divine Fire, The Untamed Flame, The Burning Flame and Qareen (in Sufism) and so and so and so…

    Yet, to be honest, that’s what Crowley intended to provide with Magick… I don’t know if you call that spiritual enlightenment or not but, from what I have studied and practiced for years now, that achievement lies at the heart of all magickal or mystical traditions either from East, Middle East(My Origin), or West :)

    4. Even being a Thelemite, doesn’t make of me a follower in deepest or shallowest sense… I argue with Crowley on many things that lies in the practice side or application side of Thelema, and I believe this isn’t the right moment to get into that ;)

    5. And last but not least, this is for you and for the guys who interpreted that the passage that Thelema cannot be converted into anything new! Check this out…
    http://twitter.com/Aleisterion
    http://holythelemicchurch.wordpress.com/

    This is a friend of mine who have been very creative and very enlightened to the point of bearing his manifestations from the Plane of Will to the Plane of Physique… In other words, has established his own unique path – regardless of it’s content – out of disciplined practice on Thelemic Magick!

    6. Now for the dudes who believe that Thelema – in it’s core philosophy – is outdated, here comes my debate inspired by TheCore of Thelema itself and from the latest advancements in Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology:

    I’m not really planning to re-explain the theories, so I’m going to list the bold lines, as I hope I do it well, then I’m going to list some references :)

    In three branch of cognitive psychology entiteled: NLP (Neuro-Linguistic-Programming) and
    DHE (Design-Human-Engineering) and
    NS (Neuro-Semantics)…
    We have a broader and well-proven approach to the Human Mind, Human Nature and Human Beings as whole that is explicitly embodied in a set of reserved-beliefs as follows:

    a. Humans don’t respond to reality itself, they respond to their inner representations of reality that is being formed with 90% at early age (year 1 – year 7) where the remaining 10% is being formed through out his time-line until year 18 or 19.
    – “Every Man and Every Woman is a Star”, Liber AL –

    b. That representation of reality is called the Mental Map, where the mental map doesn’t for any purpose represent the Territory which is very different. The “Territory” of that person is his true reality which is formed out of the positive intentions behind his behavioral patterns.
    The Map is what he hold true about the world.
    The Territory is the sum of his behavioral intentions.

    …… Need I complete listing and explaining the theories of modern Thinking Sciences and Researches?!! Which abides – not literally – to the Core Beliefs of Thelema ;)

    Resources:
    http://nlpls.com/
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1855383446
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/189983656X

    ————————————

    And now I would like to thank you for letting me enjoying my time here learning and teaching even if it was a little, as I would like to ask for one thing now:
    What is this passage that you have mentioned above about not being able to reach Crowley’s level or something… Quote:
    “(in fact I believe there’s a passage in the Book of the Law where this is implied).”

    I would like to know and discuss that in further detail.

    With kind Regards,
    Ahmad Alhour.

    • Rob says:

      I’ve long considered taking this article down just because it may be a little mean spirited.

      My negative views on Thelema and the OTO are not really specific to these groups. I’ve noticed similar, and often the exact same, problems in every other group and spiritual system out there. Thelema is just the example I chose, in this instance.

      As for your specific arguments:

      0. We can all agree that Crowley is the founder of Thelema. However to most Thelemites he’s a lot more than just that. Even in Crowley’s own writings he tries to elevate himself to more than just a founder, more than just a man, and more than just an average adept. As he says, he is the ‘prophet’ of Thelema, not the founder. That’s an important distinction. In his views, according to his writings, he was especially blessed, he was to be some great man of historical significance, and he is an authority.

      The fact that all questions on the law are to be decided based only on an appeal to his writings shows his supposed superiority to, at least most, men. Either other men have the potential to achieve Crowley’s enlightenment, in which case their commentary on the law would be as valid and worthwhile as his, or no man is able to fully understand the law, in which case Crowley himself should not be allowed to comment on it. Instead only Crowley is allowed to comment on the law, and only his writings hold authority (according to Crowley), which implies that Crowley is of some higher status than other men can achieve.

      1. Not all Thelemites are going to believe what I just said, but many do. They appeal to Crowley as if he was some sort of authority figure, as if Crowley was infallible. You do see this among other groups, but not quite so often. For instance I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Wiccan try to tell me I’m wrong because I contradict something Gardener or Saunders wrote. Yet I’ve had Thelemites do this with Crowley more times than I can remember.

      And Thelemites have a habit of constantly elevating Crowley beyond his actual achievements. I actually wrote some paragraphs on this, but to be honest it sounded more like I was Crowley bashing than anything else. And I don’t want to give the wrong impression.

      2. Agreed.

      3. Actually I meant that the new-religion project was Crowley’s initial intent when he was alive and building the original OTO. I find it hard to believe that the current OTO still believes this to be an achievable goal.

      3 (the other one). I agree that Crowley provides a foundation for magic, but a foundation isn’t a complete system. It’s a good jumping off point to build and develop a complete system of spirituality and magic. In the same way if I build you a foundation for a house, you still don’t have a house to live in, you just have a good foundation to build your house on.

      This isn’t something that is unique to Crowley’s work either. Every other system of attainment suffers from this same problem. They’re incomplete. The good systems, like Crowley’s, recognize this and instead provide a good starting point for the system to be expanded on by the student. Unfortunately many followers of Crowley have never figured this out. And this is really the issue I was trying to point out with the original post.

      5. Yeah you can expand upon Thelema, but why would you want to? That was, after all, Crowley’s system.

      Here’s a better question, what’s the magic and spirituality of Ahmad Alhour? What’s the magic and theory that you’ve personally developed? What sacred texts have channeled yourself? What is your spiritual destiny and your spiritual path?

      Thelema is Crowley’s. You can intertwine all of these things into Thelema, expand on Crowley’s works, if you really want to. But if you’re going to go through all that trouble, why not just carve out something completely new that is entirely yours and not at all his?

      These are of course all things Crowley did. He left the Golden Dawn and carved out his own spiritual system over time. He developed his own spirituality and magic. He discovered channels and channeled information from them. He founded his own system which was entirely his, and although he may have taken what he liked from the Golden Dawn and other sources and used it as he saw fit, he only used it as a foundation to develop a wholly individual and new spirituality.

      This is the level of attainment that Crowley achieved, and the the goal of all of his supposed followers should be to at least manage to get this far. I’m not saying everyone should be trying to start their own group or develop their own religion, that was something specific to Crowley’s path and may not be specific to someone else’s path. But each person should be trying to achieve their own spirituality, and not trying to adapt themselves to Crowley’s.

      6. The problem with Thelema is it’s stagnant. It stopped being developed at Crowley’s death. The only major Thelemic works, outside of Grant’s, since Crowley’s death have been commentaries and explanations of Crowley’s work and previously unpublished works written by Crowley.

      This isn’t a problem with just Thelema either. This is true of most groups and belief systems. Usually not much new material appears after a founder’s death.

      It doesn’t matter how right Crowley was or how well his writings hold up in the modern day. There’s nothing new there. In 500 years, it’ll be the same information we have now.

      Unfortunately I don’t remember what I read in the Book of the Law that gave me that impression, or even if it was from the Book of the Law or one of Crowley’s other writings. I may have been referring to passages 15-17 of book one, but I think it was actually a different passage, and I don’t have the time to really figure it out right now.

      • Ahmad Alhour says:

        Hello Bob,

        I would like to ask you to keep this article here… Though it seems, firstly, to be mean spirited by it’s really thought-productive :)

        I would like to say that I agree with you on what you have said above.
        I admit that Crowley tried to make out of himself a figure of authority and power… Which really irritates me.

        I really respect Crowley and actually love his achievements alongside his teachings… It’s like in some writings that idea of self-figuring don’t appear and in some others it appears clearly :S

        I believe as solo seeker of spiritual and psychological enlightenment that to be enlightened and reach ultimate liberty you need to study and evolve in every way possible until you start getting a grasp on what would your path be, what does it require… Where exactly is it carved in it’s beginning steps?!!
        Thus, I study Crowley, Thelema abd other systems such as Alchemy, Sufism, and Osho’s Works ;)

        As for the “system-foundation” argument, I agree with you, and I think you might have missed something out…
        What about the new people (beginners) who want to be spiritually enlightened and even to be evolving… A Radiant Sun on their own?!!
        With the huge history of Magick and Mysticism, I believe they would get frustrated and depressed when just reading that history just for the heck of getting a grasp… Getting the big image of image that would, even a little, give them an understanding and from where to start!!!
        That’s why, I liked Thelema and Thelemic Magick, because it treats you as purely human! You have this and have that… and here you go… you got yourself going dude… to be honest it gives you relief that there’s a foundation that you can build upon (as you have stated above, which you loved it actually!) and even reach beyond the horizons of boundaries and limitations!

        Frankly speaking, I had it in me that this is just the beginning in my life’s journey and Thelema won’t serve me beyond this spiritual and existential phase of mine… That’s why I have been into Osho’s Works since the last few months…

        Thank you Rob, for giving me this opportunity for questioning my Self, it was a lovely brainstorming and an astonishing critical thinking experience.

        I would like to ask now for some list of resources on spirituality and magick from you… For I would never spare any possibility of expanding and developing my Self spiritually, magickally and even existentially ;)
        I would love to have your recommendations on how would someone establish their spirituality and magick… As in having a foundation of working, that would be for sure expanded to be a complete system (a complete house built on that foundation)… From where would someone start? Simply! What are the big books to document Magick in it’s deepest forms…

        I hope I didn’t irritate you with my questions… My resources are that of Crowley, Hyatt and Osho… Alongside some introductions from here and there to Modern Magick…
        But I would really love to have your own recommendations in your own words… Those books that you have mentioned to be an intersection between your resources and that of Crowley.

        With Kind Regards,
        Ahmad Alhour.

        • Rob says:

          It’s perfectly fine to use Crowley’s work as a starting point for learning Ceremonial Magic. In fact I’d say his greatest gift was his ability to teach the basic concepts of magic to others.

          The problem lies with people who elevate Crowley and view him as infallible, and people who regard his system as taking a lifetime to complete. This isn’t just a problem with Crowley though. The same thing tends to happen with every other structured system of Ceremonial Magic.

          I’ve seen many Ceremonial Magicians, too many to count, that have spent twenty, thirty, or even forty years of dedicated study who still have not achieved knowledge and communion with their Holy Guardian Angel.

          A couple weeks ago I played a book game where I had to put together a list of ten books to teach someone a system of magic. The game was started by Gordon over at Runesoup, and if you check out his website I’m sure you can find the two posts he wrote on the game. The second post contains links to lots of other blogs that participated. I highly recommend looking through all of those posts since they mention a lot of good and influential books. I even found a few gems doing that.

          If you’re into Crowley you may want to check out Kenneth Grant if you can find any of his books, especially his three Typhonian trilogies. He is one of Crowley’s students who was kicked out of the OTO after Crowley’s death because of the direction he wanted to take the OTO. He was friend’s with Austen Osmand Spare, another Ceremonial Magician that’s worth checking out.

          As for Ceremonial Magick, the five books that every single Ceremonial Magician seems to own and have read are Crowley’s Book 4, Crowley’s Book of Thoth, Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot, another book by Waite known as The Book of Black Magic and Pacts or as The Book of Ceremonial Magic, and the Necronomicon by Simon.

          I really don’t recommend Waite’s books, except like I said everyone has read them so it might be good as a reference. Crowley’s books are actually pretty good. I do suggest reading Book T along with The Book of Thoth to get a better understanding of it though.

          Psychic Self-Defense is also a big one that everyone seems to have read, and I’m partial to the works of Papus and Paul Foster Case myself. If you want English translations of the grimoires, the best are the ones done by Peterson, and so far he’s translated a lot of them.

          The big Pagan authors are Scott Cunningham and Raymond Buckland. Cunningham’s two books on herbalism actually have quite a lot of good information in them, and although they aren’t always correct or complete, I still use them regularly as a reference. There’s also a book, Practical Magic of the Northern Tradition, which predates Wicca and is a pretty good collection of Celtic and Norse rituals and information.

          In chaos magick the big names are Peter Carrol and Phil Hine.

          And of course the Principia Discordia is the main book of Discordianism.

          As for New Age and New Thought, my main recommendation is Illusions by Richard Bach.

          And of course I would recommend reading all of the different major religious texts you can find, such as the Tao Te Ching, the I Ching, The Chaldean Oracles, the Sepher Yetzirah, ect.

          I also know that both Modern Magick by Kraig and The Gnostic Voudon Workbook by a guy with a French name are frequently recommended, although I haven’t worked much with either (but I was a bit impressed by what I did read of the Gnostic Voudon Workbook and plan to go more in depth into that when I have some more time).

          The most important thing though seems to be to study as many different things as possible, to actual practice magic so that you have the practical experience to understand what you are reading, and to always try to develop your own spiritual path and techniques.

          • Ahmad Alhour says:

            Thanks for your dedication Rob… It’s a very helpful reply :)

            But where is Israel Regardie… Eliphas Levi… Dion Fortune ?!!
            They have done fabulous works, like: The Tree of Life by Regardie… Transcendental Magic and the Key to The Mysteries by Eliphas Levi… Mystical Kabalah by Dion Fortune…

            They are of the best resources out there on Ceremonial Magic, Kabalah and Alchemy, don’t you agree?

            I believe, for the time being I’m going to stick to Ceremonial Magick as my primary system for study… I will have a look on the other works of Peter Carrol as I have already read his Liber Null, very good book that nails the basics…
            I will be also studying Mystical Kabalah… which nails the Kabalah for the occultist approach ;)

            Now I hope you don’t get irritated by my questions…
            If I were to write a syllabus that serves as an introductory to magic, I would like to recommend the following books:
            Osho – Meditation: The First and Last Freedom.

            Donald Kraig – Modern Magic.

            Israel Regardie – The Tree of Life: An Illustrated Study in Magic.

            Aleister Crowley – Book 4 (Liber ABA.)

            Dion Fortune – Mystical Kabalah.

            —————

            What do you think of that?!

            Can you suggest, on your own, a new one please?!
            Because I face real problems when I deal with people who want to study magic for real and they request a syllabus that puts them on their very first steps…

            Thanks again for your dedication Rob :)

            • Rob says:

              Well I did mention Fortune and her Psychic Self-Defense.

              For the most part, I don’t like the Golden Dawn clique, at least for teaching beginners, Crowley being an exception.

              The majority of Golden Dawn writers are difficult to read. They use difficult language, they’re long-winded, and they generally write in a dry and uninteresting way. These long boring books are usually a turn-off to new practitioners.

              What’s more, they have a lot of theoretical information and usually very little practical information. I know when I was starting out, and even now, a book that stops every few pages and gives a ritual or an exercise that can be done right now and show me some results is much better than one that just goes on about theory.

              If you’re looking for introductory Ceremonial Magic books, have you tried Bardon, particularly An Initiation into Hermetics, although his follow-up The Practice of Evocation is also very good.

              As for the Kabalah, I’d really suggest going back to the basic books, especially the Sepher Yetzirah. The Sepher Bahir and the Zohar are good books to read too, although the last one is really long, but especially read the Sepher Yetzirah.

              I pretty much taught myself the Kabalah with only the Sepher Yetzirah, a few good tarot decks, and a diagram of the tree of life. To me the tarot is a great aid in learning the Kabalah.

              As for tarot cards, the big ones to me are the Crowley, Waite, and Regardie decks. Book wise I’d say Crowley’s Book of Thoth, the Golden Dawn Book T, and Papus’s Tarot of the Bohemians are all a good start. In fact Papus has an okay book on Kabalah too that reprints some of Levi’s stuff.

  11. Most of what you’re referencing is close enough to spot on that the little things that are off are enough to almost bring tears to my eyes.

    The thing is that the broader ‘church’ aspect of Thelema is designed in practice to appeal to the people who have not overcome the tyranny of superstition and need that level of base human ritual interaction; it’s a place for people with the party hats of “Magick without Tears” to gather and for any people with a spark of promise to be whisked away elsewhere by the people who can actually teach or steer them towards actual achievement. Keep in mind that the system predates modern entertainment options and the decline of the social and fraternal lodge, long a staple of society – the need to fill time and do the whole pseudo-masonic approach is really one of the most dated aspects of the system. I’m sure there are some people who still need this sort of thing, but the general decline of the lodge and fraternal system as well as organized religion itself point to the fact that the old ways do not speak to the new people of the world. A fundamentalist would claim it’s the failing of the Old Aeon teachings and practices and all that, I’m sure, to not account for the New Age of Exciting Plastic Stuff.

    And in this, I think is where the public religious and practical face of modern Thelema fails: it’s still preaching to 19th century humans that the organization assumes know nothing about the system and have no access to anything spiritual beyond the basic teachings of Christ. It’s all well and good to introduce magical concepts to people who want something they don’t have, but the system does nothing to address those who are already well on their way. Best you can do is grab them and whisk them away from the group(s) and see how their flower blooms.

    As far as Christ-like admonitions that the magician following in Crowley’s footsteps may well do as he does, it’s fairly implicit even in the earliest writings; sure, he tries to make the Logos of the age the primary focus of things, and all following magus-wannabes must be in alignment with the Word – and that may not be an incorrect assumption, after all- but there’s ‘you can do this on your own’ buried in the system from the getgo. See MTP, Chap 20, in which the great challenge to “find my crap” is thrown down; it establishes a value to searching for knowledge and working with it that simply grabbing the deeply flawed King documents and going to town. Interestingly enough, the King and their ilk documents, including a bunch of the Grady stuff that pops up. Ironically, the problem with the bootlegs is that they remove the entirety of the feminine from the degree papers – a qabalistic joke for the silent mother, perhaps – but the systematic removal of the feminine and its proper place in the system makes the true nature of the trinity interlocking an abject failure in the bootleg material and has, in my humble opinion, led to much of the stupidity of the modern Thelemic culture from the overswinging compensation of the Babalon element carried to laughable extremes to the denial that the feminine even exists and a (pardon the pun) anal fixation on the forcible power of the masculine alone.

    Once the basics are discovered and conjured (I mean, it’s not exactly difficult to conjure up correct documents and the like – Yorke and the like are under wraps but not under control. Trust not a stranger and all that), the system tells you to move beyond Crowley – it tells you to strip away everything and reconstruct the entirety of the universe. 418, Aethyr 14 and beyond really highlight this; a crucible of work creates the ash and establishes value in things that only comes from the deepest burning in the fire. There is no appeal to the Prophet when the burning eye of God is not just staring at you, but is you.

    There’s also the simple fact that while having worked the system to its realistic extremes that I do not believe that every star is intended to shine brightly in the heavens. Thelema needs people to clean the telephones too, and no one wants to hear that. Footnote to Aethyr 14 covers it, with the Masters being cast out into different spheres, shoes flying down from the void and all that. Wear a helmet.

    Otherwise, cheers and good work. Don’t remove the post. People need to rethink things from time to time.

  12. Some interesting discussion here, readers may wish to check out some of my thoughts about Crowley and Thelema here http://theblogofbaphomet.com/2012/02/08/the-pope-the-prophet/

    Thanks for your blog Rob :)

    Julian Vayne

  13. Thomas C says:

    Anybody can ascend spiritually regardless of their religion or faith. Man OR Woman. It could even happen by accident in a split second through meditation or through a moment of euphoria without a person reading or knowing anything. In my experience as a shaman I have identified three problems with Thelema,

    The first is that it’s a proponent of Old Magik, which is ritualistic and superstitious, and an ironic reflection of modern day Christianity or Catholicism (altars, candles, dualism, etc..). When you believe in ritual, an error is fatal. That’s no good!

    The second problem is that it is a faith that indulges and favors the intellect (the deciphering of Crowley’s writings, symbolism, tarots, linking facts and knowledge together as omens when really you are just being creative). True “knowing” is direct from source/divine, unexplainable and detached. Nothing ever needs to be said, and nothing said ever needs explanation.

    The third problem or criticism if you will, are the laws itself. “Do as though wilt, love is the law, love under will.”, which can easily become ego or sociopathic juice to anyone with fear or hatred inside their hearts.

    A combination of these 3 things is what led to the downfall of the old sorcerers.

    I have nothing against Thelema. I just see it as a limited system with many holes and dangers. Thelemites will certainly not like my post but that’s exactly my point. Complete detachment is key to spiritual enlightenment.

  14. It seems to me that you more so take issue with “Crowleyanity” than Thelema itself. Deifying Crowley is counter-intuitive to achieving one’s own potential.

    I’m not saying Thelema is the most enlightened system in the world–it may very well not be as useful as other paths on the whole… who knows?–but you shouldn’t misrepresent it.

    “Complete detachment”… in the Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Jain, or Thelemic sense?

    Every system is effectively pointing to the same thing.

  15. V. St. Clare says:

    Crowley himself did not want people to treat him as some kind of demigod (though that’s not to say he wasn’t narcissistic in his own way). He called upon every person to “cut his own way through the jungle.”

    Of course enlightenment is about casting off the shackles of dogma. The Buddha described his dharma as merely a raft which takes on to the shore of enlightenment, and cautioned that when one arrives, one ought to let the raft sink.

    Thelema, like all belief systems, is primarily practical… not an end in itself.

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