A Question I Was Asked:

Is 'Thelema' Another Cult?

The Question:

Recently somebody mentioned to me "the beliefs of the thelema people." I asked this person who this group are, he seemed to think it is a cult. Never heard of this one. Surely this is not yet another strange cult?

UK Apologetics Reply

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947).

The group may be described in various ways, and 'cult' may be one of those ways. The word "Thelema" itself is the English transliteration of the Common Greek noun qelema. This, of course, is a New Testament word usually translated "will," coming from the verb qelw : to will, to wish, to purpose.

'Thelema' is a spiritual philosophy/religion/cultic group/occultic group (however one wishes to describe it) which was developed by the British writer and magician, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). He came to believe himself to be the prophet of a new age, the so-called "Eon of Horus," based upon a spiritual experience which he and his wife claimed to have had while in Egypt in 1904. By his account, a possibly non-corporeal or "praeterhuman" being that called itself 'Aiwass' contacted him and dictated a text known as The Book of the Law or Liber AL vel Legis, which outlined the principles of a Thelema religion/revelation/mystic philosophy.

The Thelemic pantheon includes a number of deities apparently adapted from ancient Egyptian religion; these are claimed to be the three speakers of The Book of the Law: They are Nuit, Hadit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit. The religion is founded upon the idea that the 20th century marked the beginning of the Aeon [Age] of Horus, in which a new ethical code would be followed; "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." This statement indicates that adherents, who are known as Thelemites, should seek out and follow their own true path in life, known as their True Will rather than their egotistic desires. The strange teaching also emphasizes various ritual magical practices.

According to Crowley, every individual has this True Will, to be distinguished from the ordinary wants and desires of the ego. The True Will is essentially one's "calling" or "purpose" in life. Some later magicians have taken this to include the goal of attaining self-realization by one's own efforts, without the aid of God or any other divine authority.

Frankly, Christians need not detain themselves too long by considering this unadulterated nonsense. Did Crowley indeed receive a "revelation"? Yes, very likely he did, just like the revelations received by numerous other founders of strange cults and sects. But we might well ask: what sort of 'angel' delivered this "message"?

Robin A. Brace. May 15th, 2012.