The Term 'Thelema', Meaning and Context
the confusion surrounding discussion of the meaning of
the term 'thelema' (/'Thelema') is sufficient that i
may be placing some portion of the text below into
our group's front page as explanatory of the
complexities involved in discussing it as
it *may* be understood by participants.
criticism/correction of the text below is welcome.
#> Of course, when explaining Thelema to a friend, it would seem
#> prudent to note that it does not really matter where Crowley
#> is now, or why.
agreed, though by this name it seems an error to omit mention
of him completely. Crowley is one of the expositors of what
is at least a principle or law of the cosmos inherent to
human experience and was the instrumental popularizer of
the term in modern times, particularly as he explained and
defined it. insight into human volitional processes may be
imperative to its understanding in a wider sense, and
anything beyond these may or may not be grounded in
the real or relevant to its discussion.
Crowley conceived an expansion of this principle, expressed
this in his writings, and to the groups he managed and
originated, gave it religious and societal dimensions under
the name of 'Thelema'. he was nonspecific enough in his
expression when it came to delimiting thelema so as
connect it with the numerous prior and contemporary sources
writing on the subject of will-based philosophy, some
inspiring him and whom he specified (e.g. Schopenhauer,
Fichte, and Rabelais among them), and some whom were his
occult, religious, or authorial contemporaries which he
ignored completely or of whom he was unaware.
we have covered this larger envelope of *will-based
philosophy* occasionally in our forum, and conversation
often returns to the religious and societal significances
that use theories of will or volition for purposes both
secular and ecclesiastical due to their proliferation.
when a presentation name becomes the referent for
something larger of which it is a part (e.g. in terms
of objects "Kleenex tissue") it occasionally is taken
for that larger category by those who encounter it as
such rather than understood as a representative and
popularized sample (from the above, 'kleenex' or
'Kleenex' is taken as a substitute for generic
compounding this problem, the character of religions,
occultism, and societies in general are such that they
often tend to position themselves as standards in a
competitive and exclusionary sense, vying for attention
and presuming to supercede and eradicate their
alternatives, at times ignoring or opaquing the context
from which the original ideas, symbols, and nomenclature
from which they were drawn or constructed may have arisen.
we may point to representative religious sects or
denominations who present themselves as the only
legitimate or extant manifestation despite their
origins from within a cultural context employing
the term by which they identify. examples here are
Protestants identifying themselves as 'Christians'
while disputing that their competitors qualify, or
Mahayanans identifying as 'Buddhists' with the
corresponding struggle agaist their competing
Mahayanans or the 'Hinayana' (Theravada) whom
they explain as incomplete or corrupted.
this is what may be found within Thelema93-L, which
intends to include *all* notions of Thelema, or
indeed thelema, soever, without centering on religious,
occult, or societal allegiances, or limiting itself to
particular presentation by writers such as Crowley or
his followers and admirers.
in the case of Thelema, which Crowley popularized in
his preferred mode(s), will-based philosophy is ONE
of the aspects he incorporated to its meaning, and
therefore whereas what may seem, to those introduced
to this term through Crowleyan societies and text,
to be 'clearly defined and limited' is, in our usage,
broadened so as to include ALL possible meanings.
in occult and religious subcultures that identify
as 'Thelemic', this aspect of contextual origin is
routinely overlooked, either based on its perceived
lack of importance for purposes of occult or religious
instruction (e.g. because the Prophet of the religion
may have been setting this into definitive doctrine),
or because its conveyors are unaware of that context
and therefore promote the Crowleyan idea as unique.
thus for explication of "what thelema means" in T93
and whether it pertains to a general and secular
principle of philosophy, or to a religious or occult
current, group, or principle originating with and
promoted by Aleister Crowley, it seems misguided
or inexact to omit mention of the man who made
it popular under this name in the same way that
trying to explain what 'kleenex' is would at least
be inexact to omit either the history of facial
tissue or mention of the originator of the product
and company 'Kleenex brand tissues' that made the
term 'kleenex' so popular as to become a generic
in the same way, it seems inexact at least, and
possibly deceptive, to omit a mention, if not a
complete description, of the history of Roman
Catholicism and Protestantism in an explication
of Christianity. likewise, it seems inexact at
least and potentially misrepresentational to omit
from an explanation of Buddhism a description of
Theravadan and subsequent Mahayana Buddhism from
an overview of Buddhism proper.
in private conversations this will of course vary,
and it is in no way the intention to promote or
argue for any particular significance or termset
herein, merely to retain an expansive and
inclusive focus for our discursive purposes.
all the above given, when i (and some others) first
encountered Crowley's writing on the subject of
'Thelema' in its abundance, i was impressed and
inspired by the *philosophical* implications thereof,
apart, and at times in contrast to, its occult and
religious dimensions. insofar as will is an integral
component of magic (and by extension, Crowley's Magick),
so also is explication on thelema important to a study
thereof, and the principle itself seems to me to support
the writer and reader in selecting from amongst these,
particularly when they are understood in this way by
such a writer, or unspecified or ambiguously expressed
in what one is reading on the subject.
#> It matters only where the friend is now and why,
#> and what is be done by that individual in
#> accordance with those circumstances.
#> The fact that one person is explaining Thelema
#> to another person today is a good indication
#> that Crowley's Will is done.
this seems reasonable to those who accept that any
kind of "Will" (be that the cosmic 'true will' or
the 'Will of God' or some other metaphysical facet)
actually exists beyond ordinary human volition. to
great extent, such things have not been identified
and isolated by empirical procedures, and so
they are subject to abuse and projection by the
imaginative in promoting their esoteric platforms.
#> It's not where the next incarnation of Crowley
#> might be (I'd imagine he'd remain in the Unity
#> of Nuit anyway).
it is my observation and contention that animals
have no actual separate spirits or souls. the notion
of "incarnation" is at least by dualists understood
to be some kind of 'reposturing' of an inherent
or manifesting essence that is not demonstrated
to rationalists. as such, if there is no essence
and no such incarnation, then reincarnation is
strictly a fantasy without demonstrated reality
(lineage "recognition" of course is argued to
the contrary by those such as Tibetan Buddhists).
by this logic there is no more Crowley since he
dissolved at his death in 1947, his remains
cremated, and lost to posterity by
irresponsible error of his survivors.
#> It's who the next Beast might be.
this seems to posit the notion of cosmic offices
on par with the 'Sorcerer Supreme of Earth' or
occult and spiritual authorities of hierarchies
that presume some determined and officiating role.
to great degree these are conceptual only and given
ontological status by human beings or groups.
who will be the next Pope or Dalai Lama figures
only within certain religious and social systems,
and those who for some reason dispute and cosmic
significance of these will restrict their meaning
to the societal. for this reason governments such
as the Chinese may struggle with the Tibetan for
identification of the next Panchen Lama in order
to disrupt and predetermine their own selection
of these future offices (as they are now doing,
having abducted the Panchen Lama who is supposed to
point out the next birthplace of the Dalai Lama).
#> I don't wonder if there were some unrealized
#> incarnations; or perhaps the current Beast,
#> if there is one, chooses to work in anonymity
#> rather than try to be a sort of Pope or Dahli
#> Lama of Thelema.
while Roman Catholic popes are elected and not
conceived as being reincarnated (or in the
case of Buddhism reborn), dalai and panchen
lamas are presumed by many of their believers
to be continuous in 'identity' and resurfacing
'in new human bodies', recognized in childhood
by their familiarity with key ceremonial tools
used by those formerly part of their lineages.
we may ignore for the present the competing
(and by some argued primary) Buddhist
instruction of 'anatta' or 'anatman' whereby
such continuity might be viewed impossible.
whether Thelemic religious perceive there to be
incarnated metaphysical authorities and roles
such as those mentioned above is disputable,
and relevantly debated herein.
# Red flag, in my liber. The term "The Beast"
# apparently has meanings on multiple levels,
# one of which *need not* be an openly known
# 'world leader of Thelema.'
it derives from the Revelation of John of Patmos,
upon which Crowley drew in his writings in a
subversive and reinterpreting manner (displaying
for us his post-Christian character). he explains
that his mother provided him with this childhood
nickname as an epithet of her consternation,
a byproduct of their Plymouth Brethren
# Some Thelema Orders have leaders,
most of which i am aware do, yes, though some
are secret and therefore conceal these from
the public in part or wholly as by pseudonym
or lack of reference.
# which is perfect for individual members
# who benefit from such guidance for some
# period of time. On the whole, however,
# an openly known 'world leader of Thelema'
# would not be at all Thelemic. :)
in part all of the foregoing is prefatory
to my comment on this paragraph. since you
have somewhat ambiguously expressed these
ideas and the terms above, i want to delve
very deeply into why i reply as i do, knowing
that you may mean something specific while i
am pointing out more expansive or comprehensive
secular and non-societal meanings for the terms.
'world leader of Thelema' seems to imply a
religious or occult group or lineage, whereas
'Thelemic' may imply *either* participation
in groups of this character or an appeal to
an ideal within religious or secular
ideologies containing it. obviously if one
understands both of these references to
pertain to societal meaning then your
contention would be false on its face,
since participation in such group or line
automatically conveys upon the participant
the character of 'Thelemic' by default.
this ambiguity is possibly the reason why
you have inserted a smiley emoticon. ;)
# If there were one such individual, total
# anonymity would certainly be required.
only if at least the latter usage refers to
some *ideal* which you have in mind. it may
well be that you have in mind to use 'Thelema'
as a metaphysical principle by which some
fairly awkward employment produces a 'world
leader' of it, and 'Thelemic' as associated
to or manifesting the character of said law.
please understand that i don't always read
or understand all of the contents of
discussion within this forum, and may
therefore not have seen your prior or
subsequent clarifications of your meaning.
should you feel like commenting on the
various *possibilities* of its meaning
within this thread that may be helpful.
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