Am I a Thelemite? I keep wondering about this. I’ve been a Buddhist for close to 30 years – admittedly, on and off because I didn’t have any place to study or practice for a while and so explored other options a couple of times. But Buddhism really worked, largely because of the joy I found in the Tibetan tradition. I need joy in my spirituality – that’s the bottom line – and the colours and music and pujas with their visualisations really open my heart.
Then came the pandemic and as for a lot of people, it showed the cracks in what I thought was a pretty solid path. I’m still a Buddhist. The change is that I’m not only a Buddhist. All religions are the same at their core. I don’t disagree with any basic principles of any faith I’ve heard about. Reading about Qabalah, I came across this idea explained as all religions having branched off from one main religion several thousand years ago. It’s the same idea, just expressed differently according to the culture where it took root. So basically, I’m an Everythingist. But in terms of how to progress spiritually, there were problems with Buddhism that – guess what – Thelema answers perfectly.
Thelema is a gnostic system, based on personal experience with Spirit. That is something I’ve realised is my second big requirement, after joy: independence of experience. I never felt entirely comfortable with a structure for spiritual work that had external goals that someone else approved or disapproved. How could that possibly work? How could someone else really know what I experienced in meditation? Anything you try to explain to another person is limited by how well you express yourself, and by their own experience of listening to other people. Doesn’t it make sense that your mind, with your own personalised experiences of life, would need a different path than anyone else?
I also really like the equality that Crowley is so famous for: Every man and every woman is a star. There is an interesting entry in Magick: Without Tears where he answers a letter from a student asking what he thinks about ‘monsters’, i.e. people who are not White (I know). He asks her to think about what she means by categorising people in such a way – is there really a difference between people in the way she thinks? Why? He takes the long way around so that he can illustrate his thought process, but the gist of it is “Come on, seriously?” and I like that too.
And I love the Aeon of Horus that we have been moving into for about 100 years now. Timewise, it fits in with the start of the Age of Aquarius and also the Buddhist Kali Yuga – the ‘Age of Darkness’, the shortest cycle but the meanest, most chaotic, and full of suffering – because these ages overlap and while we’re seeing the world kind of fall apart these days, there is always the seed of the next, most amazing age coming into effect. Nothing in nature ever just stops or starts. It’s always a cycle and everything is interdependent. In every ending there is the seed of the next beginning.
The Aeon of Horus is a time of equality for humanity, and that’s quite a shakeup. Previously, the Aeon of Isis was about celebrating Life; the Aeon of Osiris was about celebrating Death (I’ve heard more than one person call Christianity, as it exists today, a death cult); the Aeon of Horus is about Life and Death … and Rebirth. Because it’s a cycle, i.e. not a linear progression that starts and stops, we – humanity – can connect to the Divine in a way we weren’t ready for until now. If you think about the Tree of Life, the energy that moves down the Tree from the top gets to Malkuth at the bottom and then starts back up. It’s like that. The Aeon of Horus has come about because we’re ready, not because of the movement of the stars – we powered it.
And we will power change to suit this inclusive, egalitarian Aquarian energy in the world.
Thelema has a structure, and there are temples where people practice. But I’m not sure Aleister Crowley meant that to be a requirement. In other letters to that same student I mentioned above, he replies to a question about when she can meet other Thelemites and he responds by saying that she has quite enough to be getting on with in her studies! And he adds, who does she think she is, really, to ask to see these people and – as he knows she will, because any of us would do the same – judge them as though they were on parade in front of her? The point is, don’t worry about other people. Focus on your path, and when – if – the time comes that you meet others on similar paths, you will then have the foundation to interact as colleagues and friends.
So, am I a Thelemite? I think the answer has to be yes, in my own way. And I think that Crowley would agree that in this, as in everything else, that’s the best way.