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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: law of thelema

DEFINITIONS

Law of Thelema: Definition: The basic rule of those following the system of Aleister Crowley: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” This appeared in Liber Al vel Legis, or The Book of the Law. It has early versions in Rabelais’ book, Gargantua and Pantagruel (where it was the French fay çe que vouldras or “Do what thou wilt”) and in a sermon by St. Augustine’s where he wrote, “Love, and do what you will.”

Some people have made the assumption that “Do what thou wilt” means you are free to do whatever you want. This, however, contradicts Crowley’s intent. Here, the term “wilt” means the will of your higher self, and your higher self is completely in agreement with the will of God. Therefore, the Law of Thelema is saying that a follower is called to do the sometimes long and difficult work that will enable him or her to consciously access their higher self, and then only do what is in the nature of the higher self. Thus, their actions will eventually be in harmony with the will of God.

There is a much older Sanskrit term, Svecchacarya, which means the “path of doing one’s will.” This is a belief and practice followed by some Tantrics. It should be pointed out, however, that karma is also in play. Therefore, a Tantric following this path is free to do whatever he or she wills to do, but is responsible for their actions.


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