But here is what I have to say about some matters Thelemic. Mind you: this is MY OPINION and nothing more.
And by the way: if anyone ever tells you that there is ONE absolute interpretation of this or that part of the Book of the Law, or Crowley’s writings, or Thelema, or whatever, that person is to be avoided. Do what THOU wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Not what he wilt, she wilt, they wilt or even what the Grand High Walla Walla of the Secret Order of the Ingdab Pigbones wilt. What THOU wilt.
So nothing I say is to be taken as writtten in stone. Nor is anything else anyone else says to be taken as written in stone.
1) A Thelemite is simply someone who accepts “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” and “Love is the law, love under will,” as a guiding rule of life. That is all. And that is according to Crowley, not me. You don’t have to be a member of the OTO, or the EGC, or A:.A:., or any other Order of any kind to be a Thelemite. You just have to accept the principles of Thelema as a guiding rule of life. The End. All these other orders I named above can be extremely helpful in understanding Thelema. However, membership is not necessary for being a Thelemite.
2) You should believe very little of what you hear about Aleister Crowley, and almost none of what you read online. The best bio of Crowley is by Richard Kaczynski, and it’s called Perdurabo. It is also about the size of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and weighs approximately the same as a brick. That’s not to say that it isn’t interesting as hell and well written; it is. And if you want to know about Crowley, that’s your source. And it will confirm or deny all the rumors you ever heard about Aleister Crowley. So rather than make assumptions, I wish people would read the biography and have done with it.
Was Aleister Crowley a nice man? No, he was not. Was he a complete wretch? No, he was not. Like the rest of us, he did things that were good and bad. He made some awful mistakes and had some grand triumphs as well. But there is no denying that he could be a quite difficult person. There is also no denying (as far as I am concerned) that he was the leading occultist of his age. Without him, a lot of what we know as occultism now would not exist, or it would be in a very different form. That includes Wicca, because Gerald Gardner was involved with the OTO and was a sometime student of Crowley.
Could Crowley be an awful person? Absolutely. But I will assert: why does it matter? I worked for a hospital as a secretary in the Cardiology department. I knew doctors who were horrible people to work for, horrible people to be around, cheated on their wives with nurses, spent way too much money, partied hard, you name it. But in the operating room they worked miracles and saved people’s lives routinely. Does it matter if they were horrible people? Good question.
Crowley put himself in the position to be an occultist. He could have done just about anything, but he chose to be an occultist. He put his money where his mouth was. Whatever else you can say about Crowley, he did the work. He put himself in harm’s way and did everything he could do to get in contact with the Divine. That is not in question. He had a considerable fortune, and blew every cent of it. Most of it went for publishing his books about Magick, philosophy, yoga and other esoteric subjects. Sure, he definitely spent a chunk of it on wine, women (and men) and song. But the majority of it was spent in the pursuit of the Divine.
When Crowley died, he was in his 70s and had a lot of health problems related to his asthma. He was pretty sickly there at the end. He died broke, but he had a suitcase of money under the bed that he didn’t touch. It was earmarked for publishing his last book. He could have made his life much easier by spending it, but he didn’t. That says something about him.
I’m not cutting the guy any slack. But if you separate what he did as a magician from the car wreck he could be as a person, it’s a fairly amazing body of work. And I am someone who did not start out as a fan of Crowley. So, for whatever that’s worth. My opinion only.
3) The worst place to learn about Thelema is online. DO NOT go to the Facebook groups. DO NOT snoop around the Thelemic bulletin boards, news groups, and all such. (There are a few exceptions, but even then you must be careful.) There are a lot of people with a lot of axes to grind, and a lot of people who are ex-members of Thelemic organizations who are very angry. There are a lot of people who were wanna-bees and dropped out because of their misinterpretation of what Crowley was talking about or their misinterpretation of what this, that, or the other person purporting to explain Thelema said. Nitpickers and nutcases abound, conspiracy theorists and flying saucer reptile people from the Pleiades enthusiasts, and on and on and on and on.
So what is the best way to learn about Thelema? Personally, I think that reading the Book of the Law is a good start. It is a short book and an uneasy read. Crowley himself was very troubled by it and hid it away for a number of years. The first time you read it, it is very unlikely that you will understand it. I don’t. But if it’s any consolation, Crowley himself never fully understood it.
And that’s the point, I think. If we keep reading, keep experimenting, and keep on until the end (and there is no end) we will learn who we Are. And that, I think, is the point of Thelema. From my POV. Individually. As a person. Who could always be wrong.