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Thelema as Tao

Thelema as Tao

by Aion 131


The existential dilemma every follower of ‘Thelema’ must confront is that it is not nor can it ever be rooted in dogma because it is as relativistic as Truth, manifesting differently for and through each person in an utterly unique manner. How could it intrinsically ever be anything other than unique for each individual?  As a touchstone and handy term for the following of one’s own ‘True Will,’ Thelema can not be narrowly defined or adjudicated by others. In this Thelema is much like the Tao. (I will trust the reader is familiar with The Tao Teh Ching and Lao Tzu moving forward.) Neither can be defined or limited to one religious construct, though either may inform religious practices.

Thelema seems more a philosophy, like the Taoism of the ancient sages. Thelema is a major paradigm shift that embraces real freedom and allows us to be and conduct ourselves as each of us Wills to do in accordance with Nature. In this, Taoism and Thelema are very similar.

The Tao Te Ching begins by saying ‘The Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao’ and this is also true for Thelema. Get a few Thelemites together and see if they can agree on ONE definition of Thelema for all. The fact that this is not really possible supports the innate truth of Thelema as a guiding principle of existence for those following their Will with Love. This, like the Tao, is not something you can categorize or put into dogma because it is beyond intellectual twaddle, being the essential Truth or gnosis of any person’s life and is really about what it is they are supposed to do here and now. This ‘way’ is thus closer to living the Tao than anything else I can think of.  Meditating on Thelema/Agape, as I have for over 40 years, the essence of the terms seem analogous to the terms TAO and TE. In brief, these can be roughly translated as  ‘The WAY’ (Tao) and ‘The WAY of the WAY” (Te.)

To echo Lao Tzu, I would say ‘the Thelema that can be spoken of is not real Thelema’ in that each and every star and it’s orbit  is unique. As Crowley says, each ‘star’ must find and follow his or her own True Will in their own manner. Those who claims they have a defined box or ‘definition’ that Thelema fits into must therefore be wrong.  Much like all the many many diverse and conflicting ‘Taoist cults’ in China claiming the ‘one true Taoist way’ no one order or cult is ‘in charge of ‘Thelema.’

When I traveled in China, practitioners spoke of Taoist magic or Taoist ceremonies and rituals, but all admitted that the Tao could not possibly have a clear definition or one religion. If it was something that could be wholly grasped or defined, it would not be the Tao, of course. A religion can be grasped and defined as a noun like Buddhism, Islam or Christianity. Tas cani ‘Magick’ ™ which people also use as a noun. Yet the truth of the action is lost in this way and we begin to think of our dynamic life-path as a static thing if it is reduced to a noun. There is no doubt that all that is truly vital and real in life is in constant change. Our individual points of view, propensities and innate or adopted tendencies inform the orbit or motion of our Star. This is the flow of one’s life and is undefinable and the essence of Thelema. Crowley is clear that everybody’s orbit is different and individual, and this feels more like a verb to me.

Those who seek to embody their orbit, it is clear when we are following our Will once we get the hang of it, but it must be utterly subjective. It is much like sailing. When I am sailing intuitively, with the prevailing tide and wind, it is effortless and a joy, but when I am ‘fighting’ the tide or wind, you have troubles. My life can go from ‘smooth sailing’ to ‘what a mess!’ when I go awry from the orbit of my True Will, but there is no guidebook and no defined procedure except that of my inner voice of Self. Each must acquire this ‘verb’ of ‘Thelema-ing’ on their own through meditation, study and direct gnosis. Every man and woman is a star and thus must discover his or her own path.

Some try to codify or ‘own’ Thelema and say ‘We know what it is and we are the arbitrators and guardians of what it is!’ This seems to me absurd and rather pointless, much like people who arbitrate what is or is not ‘art’ or ‘God.’ It would be funny if ‘fundamentalist Thelema’ had a sense of propriety or usefulness. There is no possibility of dialog when confronted with such old aeon judgmentalism, and it does not move the philosophy Thelema forward. Many of us find the works of Crowley and the power of Thelema personal and powerful. By saying ‘The Law is for All’ Crowley declared Thelema a ‘big tent’ idea that anyone who chooses to embrace gets to define for him or herself in a state of being and doing.

Religions often destroy the very things they espouse, as one can see on TV daily. Christians call each other non-Christian and still kill each other as they have for thousands of years. Shite and Sunni Muslims do the same, blowing each other up for their claims of purity even today. One wonders what the utility of any religion is and The Book of the Law clearly states the fate of ‘old aeon’ religions is doomed, something to look forward to. Which leads me to the question: Can there ever be a scripture or other philosophy that has helped reveal MY True Will? The closest so far has been the Tao Teh Ching, a good model in that it escapes fatal orthodoxy by upfront defining itself as undefinable.

Thelema should and, in my opinion does, follow a similar path. In a sense, Liber OZ can be seen as a pithy Tao Teh Ching of Thelema. Thus I advocate Thelemic tolerance and ecumenicalism. If we’re going to discuss Thelema, as we should, then we must accept the maxim that we are all unique Stars and we each have a duty to follow our unique Will and ‘no one can say nay.’  We who adopt Thelema will always have differences in our diverse understandings of the works of Crowley, but The Book of the Law  delivers the very clear message that we must do our Will and that is that. There’s no use arguing about it, no debating it and joining a church or an order or a hidden cult will not make that happen for you. You have no right but to do your will. It therefore must be for each to discover in his or her own way, and that is the beauty and the truth of it.

Just like Christians should be busy healing the sick and and taking care of the poor and feeding the hungry, which is what Jesus said, those who follow Thelema should be busy finding and manifesting their True Will with Love and aid any who asks as they seek to find their own Path, without judgment, dogma or lectures.  How can we aid each other in this Great Work?

The answer, like the Tao, conveys compassion and observation but is not ever definable or limited. If you are flowing with the Tao, you are not speaking of it, you are living it. The same goes for Thelema. Arguing, defining or debating about it is a dead end. If all are focusing on doing their True Will, with Love, the universe will fall into place as it must. This is the simplicity and beauty of the Tao and Thelema, both are not about saying or believing but about DOING. To paraphrase, ‘The Thelema that can be named is not the true Thelema.’

Love is the law, love under will.


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