The word of the Law is THELEMA. Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. ~ Liber AL I:39-40 ~
The following notes on Thelemic theology are based primarily on the writings of Aleister Crowley. These notes are not intended as interpretation or commentary on The Book of the Law outside the bounds of the Prophet’s writings, nor do they represent a definitive statement of Thelemic belief.
What do we believe?
The theology of Thelema postulates all manifested existence arising from the interaction of two cosmic principles: the infinitely extended, all-pervading Space-Time Continuum; and the atomic, individually expressed Principle of Life and Wisdom. The interplay of these Principles gives rise to the Principle of Consciousness which governs existence. In the Book of the Law, the divine Principles are personified by a trinity of ancient Egyptian Divinities: Nuit, the Goddess of Infinite Space; Hadit, the Winged Serpent of Light; and Ra-Hoor-Khuit (Horus), the Solar, Hawk-Headed Lord of the Cosmos.
I am the Hawk-Headed Lord of Silence & of Strength; my nemyss shrouds the night-blue sky. Hail! ye twin warriors about the pillars of the world! for your time is nigh at hand. I am the Lord of the Double Wand of Power; the wand of the Force of Coph Nia--but my left hand is empty, for I have crushed an Universe; & nought remains. ~ Liber AL III:70-72
Nuit and Hadit (from the Stele of Revealing)
The Thelemic theological system utilizes the divinities of various cultures and religions as personifications of specific divine, archetypal and cosmic forces. Thelemic doctrine holds that all the diverse religions of Humanity are grounded in universal truths; and the study of comparative religion is an important discipline for many Thelemites.
With respect to concepts of the individual soul, Thelema follows traditional Hermeticism in the doctrine that each person possesses a soul or “Body of Light” which is arranged in “layers” or “sheaths” surrounding the physical body. Each individual is also considered to have his or her own personal “Augoeides” or “Holy Guardian Angel”; which can be considered both as the “higher self” and as a separate, sentient, divine being. With respect to concepts of the afterlife, life itself is considered as a continuum, with death an integral part of the whole. Mortal life dies in order that mortal life may continue. The Augoeides, however, is immortal and not subject to life or death. Parallel to Buddhist doctrine, the Body of Light is considered to be subject to metempsychosis, or reincarnation, after the death of the body. The Body of Light is generally considered to evolve in wisdom, consciousness and spiritual power through cycles of metempsychosis for those individuals who dedicate their lives to spiritual advancement; to the point that its fate after death may ultimately be determined by the Will of the individual.
Thelema incorporates the idea of the cyclic evolution of Cultural Consciousness as well as of Personal Consciousness. History is considered to be divided into a series of “Æons”, each with its own dominant concept of divinity and its own “formula” of redemption and advancement. The current Æon is termed the Æon of Horus. The previous Æon was that of Osiris, and previous to that was the Æon of Isis. The neolithic Æon of Isis is considered to have been dominated by the Maternal idea of divinity, and its formula involved devotion to Mother Earth in return for the nourishment and shelter She provided. The Classical/Medieval Æon of Osiris is considered to have been dominated by the Paternal Principle, and its formula was that of self-sacrifice and submission to the Father God. The modern Æon of Horus is considered to be dominated by the Principle of the Child, the sovereign individual; and its formula is that of growth, in consciousness and love, toward self-realization.
According to Thelemic doctrine, the expression of Divine Law in the Æon of Horus is “Do what thou wilt”. This “Law of Thelema”, as it is called, is not to be interpreted as a license to indulge every passing whim, but rather as the divine mandate to discover one’s True Will or true purpose in life, and to accomplish it; leaving others to do the same in their own unique ways. The “acceptance” of the Law of Thelema is what defines a Thelemite; and the discovery and accomplishment of the True Will is the fundamental concern of all Thelemites. Achieving the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” is considered an integral part of this process. The methods and practices to be employed in this process are numerous and varied; and are grouped together under the generalized term “Magick”.
The Unicursal Hexagram - a symbol of Thelema
Nearly all Thelemites keep a record of their personal practices, and their progress therein, in a “Magical Diary”. Most Thelemites also practice a particular form of prayer four times per day, which is specified in a work called Liber Resh vel Helios.
Thelemites often take mystic names or “magical mottoes” for themselves as a sign of commitment; and customarily greet each other with the phrase, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”; to which the customary response is, “Love is the law, love under will”. Sometimes these phrases are abbreviated by the simple statement of the number “ninety-three”, which number signifies both “Will” and “Love” through a particular form of numerology of significance within Thelema.
Most Thelemites perform magical rituals of various types, often as a way of focusing the Will on a given outcome or state of consciousness which is deemed necessary to their work. Some Thelemites perform only solo rituals, but many also participate in group rituals, private or public. Group rituals commonly performed include the initiations and Gnostic Mass of the OTO and Crowley’s Rites of Eleusis. Not every Thelemite utilizes all the practices available, there is considerable room for each individual practitioner to choose practices which are suitable to his or her individual needs. Some of these practices are the same as, or similar to, the practices advocated by many of the great religions of the past and present; such as prayer, meditation, study of religious texts (those of Thelema and of other religions as well), chanting, symbolic and initiatory ritual, devotional exercises, self-discipline, etc. However, some of our practices have been traditionally associated with what has generally been known as “occultism”; i.e., astrology, divination, numerology, yoga, tantric alchemy, and discourse with “angels” or “spirits” are all taken by Thelemites as potentially effective means for obtaining spiritual insights into the nature of one’s being and one’s place in the universe; and for the fulfillment of such insights through harmonious, evolutionary works.
Thelema considers any action which is not directed toward the discovery and accomplishment of the True Will to be “black magic”. This includes acts of interference with any other individual’s lawful exercise of their right to discover and accomplish their own True Will. Thelemic doctrine holds that the disharmony and imbalance created by such actions results in a compensatory, equilibrating response from the universe; a doctrine similar to that of the Eastern conception of “Karma”. Thelema has no direct parallel to the Judaeo-Christian concept of the devil or Satan; however, a pseudo-personification of confusion, distraction, illusion and egotistical ignorance is referred to by the name “Choronzon”.
Although every Thelemite must interpret Liber AL for themselves, most Thelemites consider (in accord with Crowley’s interpretation) that every person has a divine True Will, and that if everyone knew and did their Will, there would be harmony. However, since we are all in the process of discovering our own True Wills, there is sometimes conflict. For many Thelemites, a practical ethic of non-interference results: To interfere with another’s Will and freedom is therefore most likely to be in discord with one’s own True Will.
As a result, most Thelemites and Thelemic communities share this ethic of harmony and non-interference, avoiding the presumption that anyone can know another’s True Will better than that person can know it himself. This promotes an environment of mutual respect and trust, and encourages each individual to discover their own path of True Will rather than relying on the direction of others.
How do I get involved?
There are two primary types of membership, initiate and ecclesiastical, corresponding to the two constituent rites of Ordo Templi Orientis, Mysteria Mystica Maxima (M∴M∴M∴) and Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.). The two are initially independent, but become connected as one progresses through either rite.
Initiate Membership Initiate membership is available to every man and woman who is free, at least 18 years old, and of good report (see below). As described on our Initiation page, O.T.O. initiations are conferred through a physical ceremony conducted by a chartered initiator. Initiations are almost always held at O.T.O. local bodies, most commonly Oases and Lodges. The introductory initiation into O.T.O. is known as the “Minerval” or 0°. For a complete look at all of the Initiatory Degrees of the O.T.O., please see our Initiation page.
In order to establish “good report”, your application must be signed by two sponsors who are already I° initiates of O.T.O. Prospective sponsors will generally want to get to know you before signing your application, which may involve your attendance with them at several local body events, or time spent with them privately. Once your application has been signed by two sponsors, it may be submitted along with the appropriate dues and fees.
The Lamen of the O.T.O.
Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica(E.G.C.) is the ecclesiastical arm of OTO. It offers lay membership conferred through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Lay membership confers no special privileges. Confirmed members of E.G.C. who are also Minerval initiates may enter the Novitiate and work toward ordination to the Diaconate or the Priesthood. There are further M∴M∴M∴ degree requirements for these ordinations.
To apply for baptism or confirmation, please speak to a member of the clergy. If you would like to find out about upcoming E.G.C. rituals at Sekhet-Ma’at, please consult our online calendar or ask any lodge member.
Privacy: Membership in O.T.O. is private. Names and addresses of members are kept confidential from the general public and from the bulk of O.T.O. members. O.T.O. officers (including local body officers) are provided with information about members on a need-to-know basis. For example, a member wishing to attend an initiates-only event at a local body may have her membership status confirmed by Grand Lodge in response to a query by the local body master; similarly, Grand Lodge officers in the Treasury and newsletter offices will have access to the member information required to do their jobs.
Non-discrimination: There shall be no consideration of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation when considering the fitness of candidates for admission, advancement, or appointment to office within Ordo Templi Orientis U.S.A.