Aleister Crowley

The Method of Thelema

“The Method of Thelema” by Aleister Crowley was unpublished until it appeared in

[ in The Revival of Magick, edited by Hymenaeus Beta & R. Kaczynski (1998 ev.) ]

At the moment when the doors of human progress are creaking on their hinges, when mankind seems almost resigned to the cynical contemplation of its own agony in the hope of delaying its inevitable decay; when Europe has the aspect of a vast and insecure hospital for sick nations; when the Far East is drinking itself into madness on the arrack of Western democratic shibboleths, and when America is foundering in ceaselessly renewed and insoluble problems; — when, in a word, the whole earth seems weary and out of joint, at its critical angle, it is interesting to glance attentively at the efforts of certain men whose researches have led them to the intimacy of the most secret laws of Nature.

From the beginning of history, wise men have tried to overcome error, and to help their fellow-men to find and recognize the truth. To them must we attribute the real, the deep-lying causes of all social and political revolutions. It has always been their pride to nail to the mast the standard of liberty.

Mankind owes much to men of this stamp, for it is they who guide and guard it. By the development of certain faculties as superior to those of normal human intelligence as that is to the mentality of the insect, they have attained a certain comprehension and made a certain synthesis of the facts of life which enable them from time to time to announce a new fundamental principle, by the application of which humanity may take a clear-cut step in the right direction. It is only necessary to recall the names of Plato, Aristotle, Kepler, Newton, Bacon and Descartes. In each case we find an absolute challenge to all accepted principles and a complete sceptical destruction of them; followed by the formulation of a new principle which resumes in itself, while transcending the old.

At the exact moment when the futility of the formalized faiths of the world has been recognized, despite the stoutest denials; when the first principles of religion and ethics have been subconsciously rejected, so that a kind of spiritual neurasthenia broke loose in the hysteria of the world-war, there appeared a mysterious figure who is generally known as the Master Therion. Instructed by chiefs who have hitherto preferred to remain in the background, he brings to free and enlightened men a law by virtue of which mankind may arrive at a new and higher stage of advancement on every plane, from the biological to the spiritual. It is a law of liberty and of love, but also of discipline and of force. This law is already in operation under the name of the Law of Thelema.

The formula of this law is: Do what thou wilt. Its moral aspect is simple enough in theory. Do what thou wilt does not mean Do as you please, although it implies this degree of emancipation, that it is no longer possible to say à priori that a given action is “wrong.” Each man has the right—and an absolute right—to accomplish his True Will.

The more one examines the deepest implications of the Law of Thelema, the more one understands that it constitutes a sublime synthesis, and the only one possible, of the teachings of every science, from embryology to history.

It is the key of every problem which can confront the human mind; for it does not imply exactly a new religion, but rather a new philosophy, a new ethic. For the first time in history, we are able to conceive of moral science as truly a science; for our conclusions are derived from dynamic measurements without reference to absurd axioms and impudent postulates. It coordinates the several discoveries of Science in a perfectly consistent and coherent framework.

The Law of Thelema is thus capable of accomplishing a profound revolution of the thought and action of mankind. The Master Therion furnishes (in a series of essays, which only few have hitherto been privileged to read) proofs historical, philosophical, physical and mathematical, of the justice and the accuracy of his claim that The Book of the Law contains the complete formula of the next great step in human progress, which is to set every man to the task precisely suited to his individual nature, and furnish him with the means of discovering the nature of his true Will.

It seems not unreasonable to suppose that the new generation, directing itself consciously or subconsciously by this indication, will develop human personality to its full stature. The whole of our present civilization, with its cohorts of hereditary possibilities, which until now have never been utilized to full advantage, will form itself on this new law of spiritual perfection.

Nor let it be forgotten that the full blossoming of this new era is perceptible on every hand. Governments, it is true, have not yet taken official notice of the subtle evolution which is taking place under their eyes. They are bewildered and alarmed; they either break down in chaos or react savagely against the manipulations which disturb their stupidity. But they will not prevent the prodigious dawn which is taking place in the essence of man.

We have given some idea of the nature of the Law of Thelema and the general meaning of its formula, Do what thou wilt. A theory of indestructible solidity and perfection has been presented to the world. The question then arises, How is it to be put into practice?

It is here that appears the necessity of creating an immense and universal technique which shall permit its application in the immediate future. The first step is to constitute a sort of General Council, composed of the most intelligent men of science in the world. Their first business will be to interpret, each in the light of his own knowledge, fortified by the cross-rays of the knowledge of his colleagues, the deepest and widest sense of the Law of Thelema. Existing sciences must be closely knitted into a harmonious pattern, of which the Law of Thelema supplies the artistic motive.

The work of formulating the plans for the administration of the Law will fall within the province of subcommittees, directed by the central Council, composed of men of the less abstract sciences, and of the professions, trades, arts and crafts, which afford constant experience of practical problems.

Apart from this general constructive scheme, the Council and the committees, in regular interplay, will tackle, seriatim, the various crises which at present threaten the planet, understanding how each in its own way represents some breach or other of the Law of Thelema, which is the law of fitness. They will be able to remedy the evil at its source.

These problems are, in their ultimation, of infinite diversity. Many have hitherto appeared impossible to resolve.

There is no need to insist on the interior crises of mankind, his crises of conscience. These may conceivably be resolved by a definite education; on one side, the practices of all oriental sages, so ill-understood owing to the confusion of their science with the religions of their country; on the other, by the rituals vulgarly called magical, equally fallen into contempt, although of a very real efficacy, on account of the gross misunderstanding of their real nature which has always obscured them. By such means it may prove possible to create (rather, to develop), in man, a faculty superior to reason; immune from intellectual criticism. Such a faculty would permit man—does, indeed, already permit certain men—to contemplate the problem of the suffering and sorrow of life with a complete detachment and serenity, because it would no longer be protected by the superficiality and incompleteness of its data.

But it is not of such internal crises, of such spiritual sickness, that one need speak at present. It is of more immediate and practical importance to discuss external crises, those which devastate political and social conditions.

In order to apply the Law of Thelema, to investigate the solutions indicated by The Book of the Law, and to utilize them to remedy existing difficulties, the appeal is only to technicians. Bankers, architects, engineers, biologists, chemists, doctors, must combine their knowledge and apply it to the discovery of the general practical formula of the Law of Thelema.

The ploughman deserts his furrow to lose himself, and with himself the essence of his race, in the maw of the city. He has been tempted, by false education and visions of a phantom happiness, to violate the true law of his being. … More subtle error is to be seen in the class struggle. The Sisyphus-stone of the labour question has been poised by those radical misinterpretations of the problem of well-being, which consist in supposing that the possession of an automobile is the summum bonum. Craftsmanship is dead. The technical perfection, combined with the inventive genius, of the artisan, is no longer the pride and happiness of every village. The modern workman hides, beneath the rags of socialism and democracy, incurable indolent ulcers. Colonization once more is everywhere in a critical condition. In some cases, both the ruling and the subject nation are staggering beneath the weight of veritable crosses, because neither understands how to arrange their interrelation in such a way as to secure, for both equally, the maximum possibilities of their natural growth.

Commerce itself again—. But here we must break off. The reader will find it only too easy to think of a hundred cases where the error of unfitness, the violation of what we may call biological law in its widest philosophic sense, threatens the well-being and even the very existence of the individual; whether that individual be a crop, an idea, a person, or an institution.

In their actual state of mental evolution, men have not yet been able to free their minds from the absolutely false idea that each of the troubles indicated above has its particular malignant bacillus. Opinion is still in the stage of chemistry before the discovery of the Periodic Law—we may even say of the Law of Combining Weights. In those days each chemical reaction appeared more or less an isolated, and even an arbitrary, phenomenon. It was the discovery of the uniformity of chemical action which made possible the organic branch of the science, with its synthesis of compounds whose properties were predicted, before they were ever prepared, on purely theoretical general principles. And it is to organic chemistry that mankind owes a good half of modern conveniences, dyes, medicines, high explosives, and what not. By the adoption of a similar principle of uniformity in ethics, we may not unreasonably expect a parallel development of constructive social and political science. It is sheer folly to continue to lose oneself in details; during the analysis of a problem, to neglect to keep in mind the subtle currents which connect the diverse manifestations of our complex nature.

By reconciling the most opposite points of view, the Law of Thelema has supplied a Master Key to every strong room in the Safe Deposit of the human soul. The evils which afflict humanity have not an independent cause for each; the only possible form of error is the violation of the law of one’s own nature. This is no more and no less true of a cripple who wants to be a wrestler, or a miser who wants to be loved for himself alone, as of a cranberry bush that should want to live in the Sahara, or an atom of gold whose dream was to combine with argon.

The application of the Law of Thelema, which implies the development of the individual within its own proper limits, following a moral law determined by the real conditions of his deepest nature, demonstrates on the first examination how each of the vast mass of human errors is due to this one original mistake.

The Book of the Law says: “Every man and every woman is a star.” The image is nobly suggestive: no other could show more clearly the essence of the application of the Thelemite formula. Each human being should consider himself the centre of an infinite circle; his universe is, in fact, for him different from that of every other person, and he simply leaves reality for phantasm when he tries to calculate in terms of what he has been stupidly taught to consider as the “real” universe—that objective universe, which consists merely of phenomena apparently common to all observers.

The reality of that universe, which is the universe of science, is only an abstraction; it is, no doubt, nearly true for everybody, roughly speaking; but it is quite true for nobody. A thousand men looking at a clock see a thousand different clocks, although we assume the unity of the object. But the man who sees the front of the clock is a great pedant if he refuses to tell the time by it, on the ground that somebody else can only see the back. Yet this stupidity is the foundation of the old morality in general, and altruism in particular.

Each man is therefore absolutely justified in regarding himself as the centre of the universe, and acting accordingly. To displace this centre, to break the harmony of a human system (which corresponds with strange precision, on the one hand, to the Sidereal Universe, and, on the other, to that of electrons) is to break the Law of Thelema, to blaspheme oneself. And, so far as anyone can tell, there is no other self. His fellow-percipients, whether God or his neighbour, are —so far as he knows them—only ideas created by the chemical and mechanical changes in his brain; and he does not really know that!

But assuming he knows anything at all, he knows himself. Therefore to sin against himself is his only possible sin. If I commit this crime (whatever external form it may assume) it is not against the law of man, against an alien law that I blaspheme; it is against my own law, the cornerstone of my life, the complete development of my personality.

Consider a star, its gravitational relations with the universe! On every other mass in space it exercises a pull in accordance with the well-known law, a law unique. Every moment, as it passes on its course, the amount of that pull changes; but the Law is always the same. The parallel with human life is so accurate, so complex, and so intense, that it is rather a subject for meditation than for exposition. But the practical conclusion for each man will be the same. He must arrange his life in conformity with the universal Law, which is also his peculiar law, and which will assure him freedom from disturbance in his own well-ordered function and that of the system which immediately concerns him.

The extent of the advance which the strict application of the formula, Do what thou wilt, is able to secure for humanity, surpasses the imagination to conceive. Our wretched generation, bleeding from a thousand wounds, its nerves in rags from its blind excesses and misapprehensions, cannot escape from the Law. Whether we like it or not, the Law of Thelema is manifestly everywhere at work.

It is a blind Sphinx which will devour us, unless we can read its riddle, harness it to our chariot, and drive it triumphant into Thebes. Let those who constitute the intellectual and executive corps of pioneers of humanity be the first to enroll themselves in the army of the colleagues of the Master Therion, a master designated by no alien authority but by a power against which no revolt has ever been successful: the power of logic.

The paramount question is: how to teach man to act in accordance with the facts of Nature? He must cease to try to ignore or deny them in the interest of prejudice, to transcend them by fantastic idealism based on falsehood or fatuity; just as an architect must never misunderstand, miscalculate, or misapply, the law of strains and stresses.

The Law has been proclaimed. It is for us to interpret and to establish it.

Those who understand the importance of this appeal, those (to speak the language of the Law itself) whose true Will it is to direct the destinies of the race, will begin by organizing themselves into a body whose function will be to study and realize the Law, under the aegis of the Master Therion, and to proceed to the elaboration of the method of directing the course of events intelligently and naturally, for the first time in history.

This essay is primarily addressed to bankers, captains of industry, and, generally speaking, to all those whose natural once it is to manipulate social forces. It is the first condition of their existence, to say nothing of their security and prosperity, that they should direct the stream of commerce, the life-blood of the world. They are bound to understand the Law of Thelema, at least subconsciously, for they do not ship Brazil nuts to Brazil, or try to import corn from the Baltoro Glacier. Their only failure has been to see that the same principles of common sense which prevent them from perpetrating such absurdities can be applied, with the assistance of trained experts, to every possible problem which confronts them in their daily work. No men know better the frightful waste of “overhead” caused by unfitness in the staff, and similar errors. (I will not risk angering them by reminding them of idealistic legislation.)

Such men are ready for the message of the Master Therion, for they rule the mainspring of the economic clock. They should be the first to devote themselves to the cause, to accept the idea of the Law of Thelema, and to come forward to organize the scientific investigation which must be undertaken in order to bring the great branches of modern science, from political economy to biology and psychology, to contribute their force to swell the irresistible river of human attainment.