Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gems from the Forums: Three Kinds of Restriction on Love

Since one of the key slogans of Thelema is “Love is the law, love under will,” we can conclude that the concept of love is vital to understanding this philosophy. But this conclusion immediately raises the question of what exactly this phrase means. Looking through various “Thelemic discussions” online, one can see that there’s no shortage of self-proclaimed Thelemites willing to blather on about their mushy feelings and pretend it has something to do with the writings of Aleister Crowley.                                                                                                                            One gets the impression that a lot of these jokers think that love in Thelema has something to do with “love” in the sense of mystical Christianity – love of God, or selfless love for all of mankind. Others seem to think that this “love” refers primarily – or even only –  to the kind of “free love” that came into popularity in the 1960s. Still others seem to think that the teary eyes they get when watching Marley and Me has something to do with Thelema.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                          The “under will” part presents even more problems. The most common misreading of this line of Liber AL is to treat “love” as “underlying” the True Will, as if the True Will springs from the emotions that commonly get called “love” in our colloquial speech. The theory, it would seem, is that as long as you’re experiencing some kind of emotion that you can label “love” in some way, then hey, all you have to do is act and viola! You’re doing your will.                              
                                                                                                                          Worse, there are even those alleged “Thelemites” committed to using their misunderstanding of the concept of “Restriction” in Thelema as an excuse for obnoxious or vile behavior. “The word of Sin is restriction,” reads the Book. So, naturally, it should come as no surprise that dumbasses read this verse as implying that any woman with enough standards and self-respect to reject their socially inept advances is “restricting” them. Others accuse anyone who expresses a dissenting opinion – particularly anyone who dares express a dissenting opinion with conviction (and particularly anyone who can support this dissenting opinion with compelling evidence) – of “restricting” them (presumably on the grounds that they “love” being idiotically wrong).         
                                                                                                                         But what is love in Thelema? How can love be “restricted”?
                                                                                                                           The answers to those questions were the subject of a forum post I wrote several years ago and will reproduce below.
                                                                                                                           Read on for more.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Soldier and the Hunchback

Aleister Crowley’s classic essay “The Soldier and the Hunchback” (1909) is a fun read that provides some interesting insights into Crowley’s take on skepticism and how it relates to Thelema. Throughout the piece, Crowley’s wit is on full display, as is his keen intellect. Students would do well to familiarize themselves with the ideas set forth in this short document.
The goal of this blog post will be to serve as a guide to Crowley’s essay in order to facilitate study of it. Below the cut, I provide an overview of the essay’s argument, along with some close readings of important pieces of the essay. It is my hope that a beginner will come away from this blog post with a greater understanding of Crowley’s essay and be better prepared to tackle the source material, which may be confusing to those who encounter it for the first time.
Read on for more.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Mailbag: Thelema and Zen

In the comments section of a recent post, I addressed a question about why I expound Thelema as opposed to Buddhism or esoteric Christianity. The unspoken assumption there is that Thelema (that is, the way I present Thelema, which is the way that Thelema actually is, as opposed to the fantasy weirdness that many others present it as) is awfully similar – or perhaps even essentially identical – to those other systems.

The assumption reminds me of a private exchange I had many moons ago about the differences between Thelema and Zen. My response illustrates Thelema’s unique characteristics by contrast.

My correspondent writes:

Hi Los,

I just read Shun-Ryu Suzuki's "Zen Mind: Beginners Mind". And I was wondering, in what ways, practically speaking, would you say Thelema differs from the Zen approach? Because really, they seem very similar to me. That is when we define Thelema in the way you and Erwin do, as being something other than the practices and dogmas which are often bundled with it.
To quote Suzuki, "Zazen practice is the direct expression of our true nature. Strictly speaking for a human being , there is no other practice than this practice; there is no other way of life than this way of life."
 Isn't that there the essence of Thelema, the true will, our "true nature" manifesting in the moment? Doesn't what is generally understood as Thelema lack for the simplicity of the Zen approach? Isn't much of it distractionary and even counter-productive? In short what does Thelema offer that Zen does not?

An excerpt from my response appears below the cut.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Value of Crowley

A reader posed a few questions last month in the comments section of this post, and it prompted an interesting and somewhat lengthy response from me. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but there was one piece of it in particular that I thought I would pull out and make its own post. It has to do with the question of why I spend my time explaining the works of Aleister Crowley and Thelema, as opposed to some other spiritual teacher or tradition that might equally be useful to communicate what I’m trying to say without the baggage.
Here’s how the commenter phrased it:

What is valuable enough to you about Crowley's perspective and the practices he developed that you think worth keeping despite both his own shortcomings and the additional shortcomings of his followers?

This is a really good question, as it allows me to reflect on the advantages of Aleister Crowley and his teachings specifically.
My answer to this part of the comment appears below the cut.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Have you ever been thinking of a friend, only to have that friend call you a few minutes later? Have you ever had a sudden sense that “something is wrong,” only to come home and find that your brother got a flat tire earlier in the day? Have you ever had a dream, whose events seemed to come to pass in some way?

Of course you have. These experiences are exceedingly common, and I would be surprised to find someone who could not relate at least one story like this.
But here’s the more important question: does your experience demonstrate that you have some kind of mysterious power, that “intuition” is some real ability that can guide us and that we can develop by doing inane imagination exercises?

Of course not. Occurrences like those mentioned above are adequately accounted for by a combination of coincidence, confirmation bias, and the pattern-seeking functions of the brain, as I’ve explained elsewhere on this blog (like here, for example). But one thing I haven’t addressed so explicitly is this idea of “intuition,” the notion that one’s feelings actually provide information about the world and the related idea that one’s feelings actually provide information about what is “right” for the individual.
During various conversations with supernaturalists and religionists of all stripes – ranging from Christians to Hindus to people who practice supernaturalist religions based on Thelema – my interlocutors often bring up intuition.

How, they ask, do I account for intuition? Where, they demand, does intuition fit into my view of the world?

The purpose of this post is to examine the idea of intuition and to demonstrate that the common notion of intuition can actually be a great impediment to the intelligent practice of Thelema.
Read on for more.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Breaking Bad and Thelema

Now that the epic television series Breaking Bad has finally concluded, I thought this would be a good chance to post a few reflections on the series from a Thelemic viewpoint, including a reading of Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” a poem used in the promotional material for the final season.
I’ll be discussing “spoilers” in this post, so if you haven’t seen all of the episodes (and if you intend to at some point) then don’t read any further.

Article continues below.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Quote of the Moment

"Religious people aren't afraid of other religious people. Oh, sure, sometimes they kill and hate them, but...they don't fear them. They fear atheists because we are the ones who aren't clapping during 'Peter Pan.'

 "Remember "Peter Pan"? If everybody in the audience doesn't clap and say, "I believe in fairies," then Tinkerbell's light goes out and she dies. Because religion is kind of like a conga line. If one person doesn't join in, you see yourself through their eyes, and you realize you look like a schmuck."

--Bill Maher


Don't worry. New content is coming soonish.