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Aleister Crowley's unicursal hexagram , a symbol used in connection with Thelema.

Thelema ( Greek  θέλημα , ' will ', ' will ', ' command ', ' desire ', 'lust' or 'intention') is the generic term for a loosely connected neo-religious movement . This refers largely to Aleister Crowley and his Liber AL vel Legis (referred to by Crowley as The Book of the Law ), but is also based on occult and magical traditions such as Rosicrucianism and Kabbalah , Gnosis and other spiritual and religious teachings.

The term thelema

Thelema in classical Greek

As a forerunner of today will be the concept of the classical philology Greek boule (βουλή) viewed, not thelo (θέλω) or thelema .

There are two main words in Greek for will, some of which are used synonymously in the New Testament : thelema and boule .

  • Boule means 'will', 'intention', 'advice', 'plan' (i.e. a will with a purpose)
  • Thelema seems to have been used very rarely in Classical Greek; there are only a few documents, the earliest in Antiphon (5th century B.C.E.). In antiquity it stood next to the divine will that a person carries out, as well as the will of sexual desire. In this context, it was less the will of the individual that was meant than an overarching overall will, ontologically wherever located.

The verb thelo appears very early ( Homer , early Attic inscriptions) and has the meaning of 'be ready', 'like', 'be inclined', 'wish', 'want', 'decide' and 'desire' (Homer Od. 3, 272, also in the sexual sense).

Aristotle says in the writing de plantis that the goal of human will is perception - unlike plants that have no 'epithymia' ('desire') (translation by the author). The lexicar explains that Aristotle exchanged 'epithymia' and 'thelema' here, and that 'thelema' should describe the desiring driving force in humans in a completely neutral, not somehow morally determined way. "

Thelema in the Old Testament

In the Septuagint , the term is used for the will of God himself, the religious desire of the godly, and the royal will of a secular ruler. So it is only used for the representation of high ethical will in faith, the exercise of lordly authority or the extra-human will, but not for more profane striving. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, in Alexandria in 3./2. Manufactured in the 19th century, the word thelema appears 51 times. In the translation of the Greek Old Testament (AT), the Septuagint (LXX), the Latin were boule and thelema with voluntas (will ') translated. This lost the different meanings of the two terms.

Thelema in the New Testament

In the New Testament in Koine is thelema 62 times used, twice in the plural ( thelemata ). Here God's will is always and exclusively designated with the word thelema (θέλημα, mostly in the singular), as the theologian Federico Tolli shows using the Theological Dictionary for the New Testament from 1938. This cites, among other things, the Our Father Jesus as evidence : “γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου ὡς ἐν οὐρανῶ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς” ('Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven'). The term is used in the same way with the Apostle Paul and the Doctor of the Church Ignatius of Antioch . For Tolli results from the fact that the genuine idea of Thelema the teachings of Jesus do not disagree ( ref : Tolli, 2004).

The name Thelemit at Rabelais

François Rabelais (1494–1553), who worked as a doctor, lawyer and monk, describes in his first book, the Gargantua and Pantagruel pentalogy from 1532 to 1564 , how Gargantua had the Thélème Abbey built, an abbey as a model of an ideal one human society. The inhabitants of Thélème Abbey are known as Thélémites . The word Thélémites later also appears in Crowley's Liber AL vel Legis and is used as a self-designation for Thelema's followers.

Thelema term in Aleister Crowley

In 1904, the British occultist Aleister Crowley developed a magical, philosophical and religious system in which the will (thelema) is central. In some of his books, Crowley presented his views on different aspects of thelema. His book Liber AL vel Legis is considered to be the central writing of his thelemic teaching. In addition, he wrote the Holy Books of Thelema , which are said to have originated through communications with Aiwaz , his holy guardian angel. This includes:

  • Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente ('The Book of the Heart Girded by the Serpent')
  • Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli ('The Book of Books or Lapis Lazuli')
  • Liber DCCCXIII vel Ararita ('The Book 813 or Ararita')
  • Liber trigrammaton

Thelemic numerals

The Liber AL vel Legis contains figures that are of great importance in Thelema. In the 3rd verse of Nuit there is a hint about the numbers that every number is infinite and there is no difference. This gives each number its special status, taking into account the common denominator, "all numbers are infinite".

11, which is formed by adding 5 and 6, describes the magical power itself. The 11 also has a special place in the word Magick , in which Crowley added the eleventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet Kaf (כ) to the English word magic . The number eleven also corresponds to the numerical value of the Hebrew word Od (אוד), which, according to Crowley, denotes the light of sacred magic, in contrast to Ob (אוב, numerical value 9), the dark light.

31 is not in Liber Al vel Legis , but according to Crowley it is the “key to the book of the law”, as both the Semitic root El , which generally means' God ', and the word LA , which also comes from the Semitic languages , which means' not 'means correspond to the value 31. Thus the number in Thelema expresses the duality of existence and non-existence, but also their unity.

93 is the number of Thelema, whose numerical value according to the Greek Kabbalah corresponds to that of the words Thelema and Agape . In thelemical circles the term “Current 93” or 93er Strom” is also used when speaking of movement as a whole, so to speak “cross-orderly”.

220 is the totality of the universe, which results from the multiplication of the 22 paths in the tree of life by the 10 Sephiroth . The Liber AL vel Legis comprises 220 verses and is accordingly also called Liber AL vel Legis sub Figura CCXX .

418 is understood as the number of man and the great work and is the Hebrew numerical value of the word Abrahadabra , the thelemic formula of the new aeon.

666 does not appear in the Liber AL vel Legis , only "the beast and its scarlet wife" are mentioned, in which Crowley - apart from the fact that he was called "the Beast 666" by his mother as a child - probably saw a connection to the book the revelation of John in the New Testament. It describes the last great battle between God and his hosts and several "animals" that Christians associate with Satan and similar figures in Christian mythology.

The number 718 is, according to Crowley, the numerical value of the Στηλη (stele) 666 (the stele of Revelation ), as which it was marked in the Boulaq Museum.

The end of Thelema

Thelema Abbey near Cefalù, 2005

In contrast to religions, which are based on the eternal continuation of their spiritual truth, the Liber AL vel Legis also announces a change of eons : “another king shall reign; and blessing no longer be poured to the Hawk-headed mystical Lord! " , ('Another king will rule; and the falcon-headed mystical lord will no longer receive blessings!') (AL III: 34). Crowley assumes that the next eon will be that of Maat , the goddess of justice. For this reason he was also of the opinion that one should strive for justice as an ideal now.

Thelemic Places of Crowley

Cefalù : In 1920 Aleister Crowley founds a magical commune in Cefalù in Sicily, the Abbey of Thelema . His book Diary of a Drug Fiend also takes place in this commune(in German about ' Diary of a drug fool'). His daughter Anna Leah died there of typhus in infancy. After Raoul Loveday, a student of Crowley, died of an infection in the abbey, his wife Betty May turned to the British press with fictional stories. This pounced on the scandal stories (Betty May was later to give an account of the events in her autobiography "Tiger Woman", which largely coincides with the Crowleys), and in1923 the Mussolini governmentexpelled Crowley from Italy. The ruins of the abbey are now a destination for smaller tourist groups. The pictures that Crowley painted on the walls of the abbey have barely survived.

Boleskine : In October 1899, Crowley bought the Boleskine House estate near Inverness on Loch Ness in Scotlandto prepare for the magical operation of Abramelin , which lasted a year and a half. Boleskine is considered the "East" (Mecca) of the Thelemites and appreciation in the direction of Boleskine House is prescribedfor example when the LIBER XV "The Gnostic Mass" is carried out . The house changed hands frequently, for a few years it was owned by Jimmy Page , the guitarist of Led Zeppelin . Page is considered to be the largest private collector of Crowleyana. The Boleskine House burned down almost completely on December 23, 2015. The current owner of the house has doubts about reconstruction.

Thelemic Organizations

A large number of organizations follow the teachings of Thelema. Mainly these are the Orden Astrum Argenteum (A∴A∴), the various spin-offs and new foundations of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) and the Gnostic Catholic Churches affiliated to the OTOs . There are other groups that have been inspired by Thelema's methods but have adapted Crowley's teachings, such as the Illuminati of Thanateros and the Temple of Set . The order Fraternitas Saturni and similar groups accept Thelema, but add the phrase “Compassionate Love!”. The Thelema Society, based in Germany and founded by Michael Dietmar Eschner , is based only on the Liber AL vel Legis  - under the original title Liber L vel Legis .

Well-known personalities such as Gerald Brousseau Gardner (founder of Wicca ), Kenneth Grant (founder of the Typhonic Ordo Templi Orientis ) and Austin Osman Spare (founder of sigil magic and the Zos Kia Cultus ) came with Thelema via Aleister Crowley, his order A∴A∴ or in touch with the OTO and were temporarily members there. Even L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology ) came over the Crowley student Jack Parsons with the teachings of Crowley and thus with Thelema in contact, but belonged to none of the medals on.


  1. Federico Tolli: Thelema - in the field of tension between Christianity, lodge tradition and New Aeon , Edition Araki, 1st edition, Leipzig, 2004, p. 6
  2. Federico Tolli: Thelema - in the field of tension between Christianity, lodge tradition and New Aeon. Edition Araki, 1st edition, Leipzig, 2004, p. 9
  3. Federico Tolli: Thelema - in the field of tension between Christianity, lodge tradition and New Aeon , Edition Araki, 1st edition, Leipzig, 2004, p. 11
  4. ^ Crowley commentary on AL I: 60
  5. L IBER AL VEL L EGIS. SUB FIGURÁ CCXX. Ordo Templi Orientis, 2011, archived from the original on April 7, 2014 ; accessed on January 19, 2019 .
  6. ^ John Symonds: Aleister Crowley, das Tier 666 , Hugendubel, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-89631-153-0 .
  7. Rev 12:13  EU
  8. Crowley Commentary on AL III: 19
  9. Crowley commentary on AL III: 1
  10. ^ Aleister Crowley's Inverness mansion destroyed by fire. In: The Scotsman. December 23, 2015, accessed May 10, 2016 .


  • Aleister Crowley: The Book of the Law / Liber AL vel Legis (English), ISBN 0-87728-334-6 .
  • Aleister Crowley, Edward A. Crowley: The Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis , Kersken-Canbaz Verlag 1992, ISBN 3-89423-000-2 .
  • Andreas Ludwig: Aleister Crowley's Scientific Illuminism. Magic and mysticism as applied psychology for the transformation of humans, Tectum-Verlag, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-8288-8869-0 .
  • Federico Tolli: THEME in the field of tension between Christianity, lodge tradition and New Aeon. Edition Araki, Leipzig 2004, 113 pages, ISBN 3-936149-35-6 (interdisciplinary work).

Web links

Commons : Thelema  - collection of images, videos and audio files