Esoteric Philosophy of Thelema

In the year 1904 while in Cairo, Egypt, Aleister and Rose Crowley unwittingly earthed the initiatic transmission or prophetic utterance named Liber AL vel Legis, the (Egyptian) Book of the Law.

Book of the Law: Stele of Revealing, Bulaq Museuem CairoThe contents of the Book of the Law are rooted in the Egyptian Gnostic Tradition. More particularly, the book reveals the Great Work of the Egyptian priests of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, Initiates who vow to become Ma-Kheru—one whose ‘word is made perfect in Maat’.

The Great Work of the initiatic cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu is the transformation of the soul and the knowledge of the spiritual and natural law governing the operation. The formula of the opus is recorded on the funeral stone of one such Initiate, called the Stele of Revealing, of which the Book of the Law, Liber AL, is a theurgical activation.

Thelema is frequently described as a ‘magical system’ but it is no such thing in reality. Neither is it any kind of religion, though it has some affinities with Gnosticism. Thelemic initiation is about transmission. The function of a Thelemic Order is to transmit a particular stream of consciousness—which we term as the 93 Current—by which men and women can obtain Gnosis, direct revelation. The purpose of such revelation is to become free from imprisonment in the artificial construct that is commonly thought to be reality. Such an aim cannot, ipso facto, be fulfilled through any social or political agenda. As declared in Liber AL, I: 11,

These are fools that men adore; both their Gods and their men are fools.

The Book of the Law was dictated through the cosmic mediation of Ouarda the Seer (born Rose Edith Kelly). This required the agency of a praeterhuman intelligence, named Aiwass in the book.[1] It is the aim of magick to obtain direct contact with the inner planes. The diagram called the Tree of Life best explains the term, ‘inner planes’. The material or objective world of things and objects is called Malkuth the Kingdom, and is placed as the tenth emanation at the foot of the Tree. The greater part of the universe is therefore invisible to the ordinary human senses and reason.

The Greek word Thelema (Θελημα) is the ‘word of the Law’ as stated in Liber AL, I: 39. It is not a law of scriptures, decrees or any exoteric doctrine or body of religious teachings. According to Liber AL, III: 49,

I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.

The fourfold word is Do what thou wilt. The Law of Thelema is wholly a spiritual and natural one, not a human one. Some but not all human beings have this secret nature within them, and of those, some are destined to discover it. There is nothing new about Thelema; it is not limited by time. The word Thelema means, ‘will’—not the personal will that imagines it has deterministic power but the impersonal will-force that is personified as Hadit. A comparative and perhaps better-known deity is Shiva in the Tantrik tradition, the supreme creator and destroyer of the universe.

Thelema, ‘will’, and Agape, ‘love’, both add to 93 by Greek Qabalah, expressive of the 93 Current. As the word Thelema is Qabalistically identical to Agape—spiritual love, not romantic or erotic love—the 93 Current expresses the spiritual intelligence of the universe going forth. Consciousness exists everywhere in the universe, though it is not of the universe that we perceive, and can never be known for it is the Knower, otherwise termed Hadit. As declared by the Serpent of Knowledge, Hadit, in Liber AL, II: 3–4,

In the sphere I [Hadit] am everywhere the centre, as she [Nuit], the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.

As consciousness is everywhere, it is not limited to the earth and the human species that has infected the planet with an artificial construct it likes to think of as ‘intelligence’. Wild birds and creatures are sentient, in contradiction to the prevailing scientism that has formed its doctrines around the need to preserve and continue the artificial hell in which Adam and Eve are imprisoned until they come to know the true state of affairs.

Book of the Law: Thelemic Cosmology

All cosmologies are misleading. The best sense of the word ‘cosmology’ is the literal one, from the Greek: ‘a conversation about the universe’. However, that is not the meaning of the term as it is commonly understood. Metaphysics is also misleading, because the academic understanding of that word is only ‘about the matter’, the physics, which paved the way for scientism. The ancients had an entirely different way of thinking that cannot be grasped by dogmatic reasoning, whether that is slanted towards scientism, religion or religious theology. As it is succinctly put in Liber AL, II: 32,

Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite and unknown; and all their words are skew-wise.

Ancient metaphysics, aeons before the term was coined, was based on detailed observation of nature, no different from the Thelemic love under will. Originally, there was only one Tree of Life that was also a Tree of Knowledge. To assist the restoration of the Tree of Life, we can happily forget the old word of Moses and instead invoke AShRH, the ‘woman’, as deity name in Kether. From the fragrance or Shakti emanations of Nuit-Babalon comes forth the tree from which the gods are sprung. As a cognate study, Ishtar is the happy goddess of the three worlds, heaven, earth and the underworld. The same three worlds are depicted on the obverse of the Stele of Revealing.

The gods of the Book of the Law are interchangeable, as are all Egyptian gods or neters (‘principles’). They can be different things on different planes—as is the Holy Guardian Angel, another metaphor. There is a Thelemic Trinity implied in the structure of Liber AL, and also in the Stele of Revealing, the only fragment we have of the original Theban Thelemic cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu. There is also a trinity of sorts in the title of the book’s manuscript, ‘L’, as 30. The primal trinity is the Qabalistic Binah, the root of all form, the cosmic Matrix or womb. The Sethian Gnosis, among the books ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, asserts a trinity of spirit or fragrance, light and dark. The light and dark had no moral implications of good or evil, for the Gnosis precedes, by vast ages of time, all dualistic theologies. The fragrance, or spirit-intelligence, permeates the light and dark equally; it knows them; thus the cosmic womb or Matrix is formed.


1. The Egyptian name Aiwass means, ‘He who was ordained in Thebes’.
Abridged from ‘Romance of the Magical Orders’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2016, 2019

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