Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Marry if it be your Will
What is the view of Thelema on marriage? In the end, it comes down to “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” If marriage fulfills your Will (and the other individual’s as well), then that is clearly what you should do. If marriage thwarts your Will, the other’s Will, or both of your Wills, then that is clearly something you should avoid.
On the level of the Law of Thelema, it really is that simple. Simple doesn’t mean it is easy, though – the task is still yours to determine whether or not marriage (or any choice) fulfills or thwarts the full expression of your Being. Each of us is unique and therefore has a unique Will to figure out and do.
We are each at a unique point in space and time, coming to each situation with different backgrounds, influences, hopes, and ideals. In the context of marriage, this means that the very meaning of marriage will differ drastically from person to person. One couple may see marriage as a formalized expression of their love. Another individual might see it as a restrictive bond insisted upon because of outmoded traditions handed down through the generations. Another couple might see it as a financially advantageous way to support themselves. These are only three of many possible approaches to marriage, you must decide for yourself if it is meaningful and fulfilling for you or not. In the end, it is up to you to determine what your Will is, just as in every other situation in living as a Thelemite.
Aleister Crowley on Marriage
Aleister Crowley was not particularly fond of the institution of marriage.
“It seems as if the fact of Marriage destroys every natural characteristic, and has a set of rules of its own diametrically opposed in spirit and letter to those which govern Love. I confidently appeal to impartial observers to say whether the ideals of the Book [of the Law] are not cleaner, more wholesome, more human, and more truly moral than those of Marriage as it is.”
–Aleister Crowley (New Comment to AL I:51)
Crowley himself was in fact married twice, first to Rose Kelley in 1903 and then to Maria de Miramar in 1929. The fact that he was married is really unimportant except to show that he clearly was not against it in principle.
However, Crowley’s marriage to Rose is significant to the history of Thelema, and therefore relevant to our discussion. As the story goes, Crowley swooped Rose away from an unwanted marriage and to a honeymoon that culminated in the reception of The Book of the Law.
A portion of the second chapter of The Book of the Law lists feasts that are to be celebrated. Among these feasts is listed: “A feast for the first night of the Prophet and his Bride!” Crowley comments on this line:
“There should be a special feast on the 12th day of August in every year, since it was the marriage of The Beast which made possible the revelation of the New Law. (This is not an Apology for Marriage. Hard Cases make Bad Law).”
–Aleister Crowley (New Comment to AL II:37)
The feast is celebrating the union of Aleister Crowley (The Beast) with Rose, which “made possible the revelation” of The Book of the Law. He makes it very clearly that that “is not an Apology for Marriage.” Here “apology” is being used in its sense as meaning a “justification” or “defense”, as in: Crowley is no apologist for the institution of marriage. He then proceeds to make a typical Crowleyesque joke with the legal maxim that “hard cases make bad law,” or that it is bad to make general laws based on extreme cases.
The Thelemic View of Marriage
It is important to point out that Crowley makes frequent use of marriage as a symbol of the union of opposites, and marriage is often equated symbolically with sexual union.
The hieros gamos or holy marriage is a fundamental and recurring feature of Thelema’s symbolism. There is the union of Hadit and Nuit, the Adept with their Holy Guardian Angel, Priest and Priestess in the Gnostic Mass, Babalon and Beast, and so on. However, none of this symbolism has any real bearing upon the social institution of marriage as such. The fact that “marriage” appears in Thelemic language and symbolism does not mean Thelema supports the social institution of marriage in any form. Its appearance is not an apology for marriage, one might say.
Then, what does Thelema say about marriage as a social institution?
Thelema does not support the institution of marriage, but it does not denigrate it either.
Thelema most certainly does NOT uphold the idea that marriages should be until death, inherently imply sexual monogamy, or only be between men and women. In fact, Thelema is entirely silent on these details and only thunders forth the same truth that “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”
Love is the law, love under will.
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