By the college of bishops and sophias
WHAT IS THELEMA?
Thelema is a Greek word meaning Will.
Early hints of philosophy of Thelema can be found in the writings of François Rabelais in the 16th century. Some have constructed a religion around Thelema, complete with Canon and Creed; however, the English poet and mystic Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), who regarded himself as its Prophet, states that to call it a religion “might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief. The word does not occur in The Book of the Law.” (Magick Without Tears, Ch. 31)
For Aleister Crowley, Thelema was a Word for the process of achieving Samadhi, as well as a process for manifesting one’s Will in the world. Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law refers to Will used in this manner as the Double Wand of Power. Before Crowley received this text in 1904 e.v., he made it a precondition of his reception that he successfully attain to the spiritual state known as Samadhi. Thus, he received Liber AL vel Legis as a form of instruction, which he took as a guide through the process of the attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, and of Crossing the Abyss, which led him to the realisation of his goal, Samadhi.
That is Thelema: Tat tvam Asi.
In order to clarify the above, here is a working definition of Thelema which accords with the view of Ecclesia Gnostica Universalis:
- THELEMA n 1 : a spiritual philosophy teaching the discovery and following of one’s own unique will as a path to supreme realization 2 : the unique, individual will 3 : the faculty of will.
ENCOURAGING THE GROWTH OF THE GNOSIS
We believe that everybody has gnosis, just as Buddhists believe that everyone is enlightened from the beginning. It’s just that we’ve forgotten, and may need a little assistance to remember. Nobody can give or transmit to us what we already have, but a little help from our friends can help us remember what we already know.
As we believe that Gnosis comes from action, and not just from study, we will encourage the People to perform ritual. And since Gnosis is creative and evolutionary, we will encourage the People to create their own rituals. This is intended to progressively increase the individual’s confidence in their own Gnosis.
Progress in Ecclesia Gnostica Universalis depends on self-assessment. Each member is expected to assess his or her own level. To move to the next level, one should communicate one’s self-assessment to a Priest, Priestess, or Bishop as appropriate. They will encourage you to write your own rite of dedication, based on examples which will appear on our Rites page (forthcoming). Your selected mentor will help you with the finer details, and schedule a public performance of that rite for your advancement. This rite is as much for the benefit of the People as for your own benefit.
In order to avoid the tendency of the ego to exaggerate spiritual progress, a required component of a confirmation ritual will be the Vow of True Assessment. That is, to become a member of the People, one is expected to vow to be scrupulously honest in the assessment of one’s own spiritual attainment.
GNOSIS AND CREATIVE EVOLUTION
Gnosis is not about the celebration of history. Our Church is derived from, and is in many way similar to, the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. However, there are significant differences in our philosophies. These philosophical differences manifest primarily in two areas, our rites and our Saints.
It is first necessary to understand that the E.G.C. is devoted to implementing, preserving and transmitting Aleister Crowley’s Gnostic Mass (Liber XV) exactly as written. This is not a new attitude for a church to take, nor is it an attitude without merit. This method has also been used in Tibetan Buddhism, where in the so-called New Schools, the monastic tradition has been quite successful at preserving and transmitting the Vajrayana tradition with very little change for over a thousand years.
On the other hand, the Nyingma or Old School of Tibetan Buddhism takes a different approach. In the Nyingma sect, a lama or teacher need not be a monk. Also, the Nyingma tradition recognizes the validity of terma, or found teachings. According to tradition, Padmasambhava, the lineage founder, and his consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, hid many secret teachings, images and implements in caves and temples throughout Tibet. When these are found, they are recognised as valid teachings of the school. The Nyingma school also recognises what are called mind terma: this is when a new teaching is discovered by an advanced practitioner within his own mental continuum, and frequently manifests as a vision in which a deity appears and gives practical instruction.
Aleister Crowley himself received a number of mind terma: in the A∴A∴ (also known as the Great White Brotherhood, the Order from which the Law of Thelema is issued) these are called Class A Documents.
The process itself is even referred to in a Class A document, Liber LXV (Ch. I, vs. 2-5), where is is written:
Adonai spake unto V.V.V.V.V., saying: There must ever be division in the word. For the colours are many, but the light is one. Therefore thou writest that which is of mother of emerald, and of lapis-lazuli, and of turquoise, and of alexandrite. Another writeth the words of topaz, and of deep amethyst, and of gray sapphire, and of deep sapphire with a tinge as of blood.
TOWARDS LIBER LVI
One of the many criticism towards Thelema, and in particular towards Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass, is its apparent disregard for the role of women and their fundamental role in the foundation and perpetuation of the Current. This is false as soon as we start digging deeper in the philosophy and theology of the tradition, and yet modern-day organisations have failed again and again to properly address this issue, especially in a moment in time where our society is facing great struggles.
Ecclesia Gnostica Universalis is dedicated to the continuing evolution of the Gnosis. We believe that as our culture changes, so too should our rituals, in order that they are able to draw upon developments in culture, symbol and attitude. For this reason we encourage the creation of new Gnostic Masses, dedicated to the deities of diverse traditions, and using those symbols which are harmonious with those traditions and with our current evolutionary goals.
For the same reason, we continue to recognise new Saints, as we need not be afraid that the addition of new and evolving viewpoints might invalidate our rites. In particular, we recognise that our cultural approach to gender evolved since Crowley’s time. Thus we recognise the Sainthood of Women as well as of Men, rather than engage in the creative retrofitting of reasons for their omission by Crowley.
Liber LVI will be the first of these new rituals, and we will start celebrating it as soon as possible: you will be welcome to join us if it’s your Will to do so. Drawing from a vast number of influences, from J. A. Eshelman‘s expanded rubric of Liber XV to the works of Frater Achad, Nema, and Jack Parsons, the Council of Bishops and Sophias will present a completely new approach to the alchemical mysteries of union, transformation, and rejuvenation.
THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH
Some have asked why a church should have a hierarchical structure. Indeed, we were all but ready to throw out hierarchy entirely. It was kept for two reasons. The first has to do with the topics covered already above—tin order to have someone present to confirm and agree with your self-assessment, and encourage you to celebrate it.
The second has to do with the inevitable result of being a growing organization: administration. We believe that the Priestesses and Priests should be free to perform their spiritual work without having to deal with administrative matters unless they so choose.
However, we do not believe in the usual top-down authority structure. First of all, it is not in keeping with our philosophy of encouraging the growth of the Gnosis in the People. Second, we have seen this structure go wrong, where those at the top or in charge fail to listen to the needs of the People. Therefore, we understand that a channel of feedback is needed between the People and the College of Bishops and Sophias. This precise form this channel will take is still in construction, but will be modelled on the Initiative and Referendum process used by some State governments.
If a matter is of concern to the People, there should be a channel through which they can let the College of Bishops and Sophias know, so that action can be taken. If there is no mechanism for this to occur, the People will only grow more and more unhappy, and eventually leave the Church (a perhaps to found their own, new one).
Similarly, if the College of Bishops and Sophias has to make a decision regarding the administration of the Church in which there is no strong feeling or indication of the best direction, or which is so important that they hesitate to make an arbitrary decision on behalf of all, they should have a mechanism for referring the issue to the People. In this way the Church can continually evolve to fulfil the changing needs of its evolving membership, rather than propagate a dated one-size-fits-all approach to spiritual evolution.