Esoteric Philosophy of Thelema

The (Egyptian) Book of the Law was dictated through the agency of a praeterhuman intelligence, named Aiwass in the book. It is the aim of magick to prepare the person for initiatic transmission.

Book of the Law: Stele of Revealing, Bulaq Museuem CairoThelema 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. The true function of an initiatic Order is transmission. Such transmission has its source outside of and beyond the human sphere, or sphere of the individuality. Such an aim cannot, ipso facto, be fulfilled through any social or political agenda. As declared in the Book of the Law I: 11,

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

According to René Guénon,

It is easy to understand that the role of the individual who confers initiation on another is veritably one of transmitter in the most exact sense of the word. Such a person does not act as an individual, but as the support of an influence not belonging to the individual order; he is only a link in the chain of which the starting-point lies outside and beyond humanity. This is why he acts not in his own name but in the name of the organisation to which he is attached and from which he holds his powers; or, more exactly still, he acts in the name of the principle that the organisation visibly represents.[1]

The (Egyptian) Book of the Law was dictated through the agency of a praeterhuman intelligence, named Aiwass in the book. It is the aim of magick to prepare the person for initiatic transmission. The fact that such transmission takes place, however, does not in itself mean that effective initiation is a certainty, for there must be latency within the person that makes it possible. There are also many other factors, social and environmental, for example, that may determine if the person is so resistant to spiritual realisation that they are impervious to its influence. The ideal of the Rosicrucian legacy is that initiation only becomes valid when the person is prepared to make a sacrifice, which in ancient Egyptian terms makes a priest ma’a kheru, ‘true-speaking’ or ‘true of voice’. The ego and accumulated obstructive aggregates of the person must essentially be realised as having no true existence.

Thelema is a lunar and feminine mystery that vastly predates the Rosicrucian mysteries, upon which has been superimposed the grade or degree system we are familiar with. Seemingly disparate traditions, including deviations from tradition—which would include all modern organisations—are nonetheless linked as though by an invisible chain so long as they still carry the possibility of real initiation. By ‘real’ initiation, we mean here not the etymological meaning of the word, which is merely ‘to start something off’, but the technical meaning, which refers to initiatic transmission conveyed through authentic tradition—no matter how obscured that tradition has become even from the members that make up the external body of an organisation.

Rosicrucian fraternities (unless very degenerate) always differ from religious orthodoxy in two vital points. Firstly, the aim is to obtain direct knowledge as distinct from ‘salvation’ through belief, which is an exoteric or religious concern. Secondly, the feminine rôle as Initiatrix is reinstated, though it is frequently veiled in symbolism such as the rose, or the glyph of Venus. Rosicrucian source texts make it clear that what the fraternity alludes to is first and foremost active and alive on the interior, although one could be excused for thinking otherwise when studying the works of ‘authorities’ that produce tome after tome filled with the evidence of facts, dates and names of personages. The Order of the Rosy Cross is not a name for historical clubs, archaic fraternities or ‘societies’, secret or otherwise.

The titles afforded the three Orders are poetic metaphors for varying degrees of spiritual realisation. Any person that founds an Order of the Golden Dawn—that is, the first five grades—must be in contact with the three higher degrees of the Order of the Rosy Cross. And likewise, anyone that founds an Order of the Rosy Cross must be in contact with the supernal Order of the Silver Star.

The Tree of Life ‘begins’ with Kether—it is not possible to start a Rosicrucian Order from a position halfway down the Tree and pretend there is nothing above!

None of these considerations discourage the fantasists, of course, who are persuaded by the Serpent of Knowledge arising in them to set up their own puppet theatre in which they play the starring rôle. It is by now quite common to hear of those who claim to have ‘crossed the Abyss’ to obtain full and permanent spiritual realisation. It does not seem to occur to them that if they had realised in any way what they claim then they would know there is nothing to claim and no one to claim it.

Book of the Law: Thelemic Cosmology

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. Likewise, the conventional academic understanding of metaphysics 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 rational process, whether its resulting dogma is slanted towards scientism, religion or religious theology. As it is succinctly put in the Book of the Law II: 32,

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

Metaphysics literally means ‘to pass beyond the form of a thing’, and thus it really owes to pure esotericism. Ancient metaphysics, aeons before the term was coined, could be expressed only through symbols formed from a detailed observation of nature. Originally, there was only one Tree of Life that was also a Tree of Knowledge. From the fragrant emanation 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 of heaven, earth and the underworld. The same three worlds are depicted on the obverse of the Stele of Revealing and there is certainly a Thelemic Trinity implied in the structure of the (Egyptian) Book of the Law. There is also a trinity of sorts in the title of the book’s manuscript, ‘L’, as 30. The primal trinity is Binah, the root of all form, the cosmic Matrix or womb—and so the basis, through relationship, of all understanding.

The Sethian Gnosis, which is included 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—the Gnosis precedes religious theologies by vast ages of time. The fragrance, or spirit-intelligence, permeates the light and dark equally; it knows them; thus the cosmic womb or Matrix is formed.


1. René Guénon, Perspectives on Initiation [Sophia Perennis].

Abridged from ‘Romance of the Magical Orders’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

© Oliver St. John 2016, 2022

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