In brief, Aleister Crowley was a man living in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was fascinated by Western ceremonial magic, the occult, mysticism, and other religions. He joined a metaphysical society called The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a now defunct organization that used Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), ceremonial magic, Enlightenment philosophy, and mystery ceremonies as mystical tools to bring about change in the practitioner.
Crowley took elements from The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Eastern religions, his own personal beliefs, and visions he claimed to have received from an entity named Aiwass and created a spiritual system called Thelema.
Crowley became a predominant public figure of his time, promoting: ceremonial magic, drug experimentation, and libertine philosophy. He also criticized social morals, was openly bisexual, and propagated himself as a prophet of sorts for the new Aeon of Horus. This led him to get the popular label of, "the wickedest man in the world."
Some basics about Thelema:
- Thelema is a system based on the writings of Crowley, particularly his book, Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law) which he claimed was dictated to him by Aiwass.
- Thelema relies heavily on ceremonial magic, mystery plays and ceremonies, meditations, to teach and transform the practitioner.
- The pantheon of Thelema is complex as it is simultaneously monotheistic and polytheistic, stating that there is one God, but also calling upon multiple gods and understanding God through a heavily modified version of Kabbalah. Deities or divinity concepts reverenced by thelemites are: Egyptian gods, the Tree of Life used in Jewish mysticism, and Aiwass (believed to be an incarnation of Horus).
- Thelema believes that we are currently living in the Aeon of Horus, a new age of increased spiritual wisdom and enlightenment.
- Thelema has one hard and fast law: "Do what thou will shall be the whole of the Law." This is not taken to mean do whatever you want with no regards for consequences. Rather it is a statement that you should find what it is truly that you want with your life and discover your spiritual purpose, then seek to fulfill that.
The service that I am going to is called a Gnostic Mass and is based on the structure of an Eastern Orthodox liturgy, though it is very different from it. It is centered around Crowley's belief system and designed to symbolize what Thelema considers spiritual truths. It will end with communion of bread and wine similar to a Catholic Mass or Orthodox Liturgy, but the reasoning and symbolism behind it is different.
This will be very different from anything I've seen yet. I'm quite excited for it. I will let you know how it goes.
Until next time, peace be with you.