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[ [Future of Thelema]]

Subject: Re: [Re: Fwd: [Future of Thelema]]
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 12:47:17 EST

Choronzon replied:

The following is a lengthy, but information packed discussion of the history 
of  the use of the word Thelema, other greek terms and some philosophical 
history in general. Three different writers are presented, all well read.   
Some parts have been deleted to condense the information. The original 
discussion happened on Occulture.

JTG**** I am currently comparing Greek thought with Judeo-Christian thought, 
specifically, how the notion of "will" came into being.

    It appears clear that prior to the reign of Augustus (31 b.c.) 
Greek and Hellenistic thought did not have a notion of "will" as a 
separate faculty in a human being.  The word "Thelema" meant only a 
state of preparedness to act; "Boulemous" meant a decision, but not a 
"willing" (I could go to the supermarket and "boulema" to get an apple - 
I would have chosen an apple rather than an orange, but "will" is not 
involved.  "Tolma" is as Ruthanne defined it, and gets used a lot in 
Neoplationism.  "Orme" or "Orge" meant instinct, and "Menos" was a 
special gift of the gods.

    The terms "thelema" and "boulemos" were used interchangibly by 
the translators in Alexandria who translated the Hebrew Old Testiment 
into Greek.  With Christianity, "Thelema" and "Boulema" mean the "will of 
God" consistent with the Alexandrian translators.

    Now the Greeks didn't posit a faculty of will.  This is a 
Judeo-Christian notion.  The Greeks couldn't sin, be saved, or otherwise 
determine good or evil based upon something called a "will".  One could 
err because of ignorance, or act wisely through knowledge (episteme), but 
will had nothing to do with it.  That is because, for the Greeks, the 
universe was a coherent whole that worked by way of an overarching 
harmony (moriea) and it is the goal of Greek initiation for the Adept or 
Master to come to know the Divine Plan, and incorporate it into his or 
her own Being (See Plato).

    The God of the Jews on the other hand was beyond all laws and 
harmonies.  Jehova could create a world out of nothing, so why not run it 
as he pleased?  The key to Judism was to "obey" God, not understand him.  
Now to obey without understanding requires a human faculty of "will".  If 
you have a will that is independant of your cognition, then you can obey, 
without knowing the Divine Plan.   Submission is key to Judism and 
Christianity.  Indeed by the time of Augustine human beings had 3 
faculties: Memory, Will and Knowing (we moderns replace memory with 
"emotion" so that we have "thinking, feeling and willing" as our trinity.

    This notion of will as being more important than knowledge, made 
Christianity available for consumption by the uneducated in the Roman 
Empire.  Anyone can will, only the educated can know.  Magic, where the 
magician usually "knows" secrets others don't, and "science" its current 
version, both _tend_ to emphasize "knowledge" over will. 

    Crowley, to some extent can be seen as going to the 
Judeo-Christian formula with the primacy of will, but with a major 
inversion.  For Crowley, it is the individual will, not God's will, that 
should reign.   You can see the anti-Christian tendancy here with the 
notion of "Thelema" and each individual having a "True Will".

    Now the problem with many individual wills is that this can lead 
to chaos, everybody going in different directions.  So, back to a Greek 
Divine Harmony:  Everybody's "True Will" is coordinated in a divine and 
overarching plan, so that if everybody did their True Will, no disharmony 
would occur.  The "True Wills" are coordinated (Like Plato's Forms) and 
form a divine pattern ("Every man and woman is a star, etc").

I'm not suggesting that these matters are insoluble, but rather, 
the notion of HGA's, triads of gods (Nuit, Had, Ra-Hoor-KHuit) and other 
organizing principles have philosophic problems (i.e. problems with 
coherence).  This is especially true if you reject Greek philosophy of 
understanding everything, and rely upon divine revelation (1904).  Now, 
revelation can tell us what we don't know otherwise, but it must fit in 
with our other knowledge if the universe is to make sense.  Of course, if 
you accept a Judeo-Christian premise, the universe doesn't have to make 
sense, and that makes this a whole lot easier!


Both Plato and Aristotle placed Political Science at the top of the chain of
knowledge as the ultimate source of wisdom and valuable knowledge.  Both
also thought that Political Science was important and dangerous enough
 that it had to be kept out of the hands of the lower classes who were 
unprepared to possess such knowledge.  So, it would seem that "idiocy" would 
be an assumed trait of the merchant/working class of Plato's scheme, rather 
than a weakness that can be criticized.  It is clear in both Plato and 
Aristotle that being part of the elite class was identical to playing an 
ACTIVE role in politics.  

All of this helps explain why Plato was so eager to discount the teachings of 
the sophists--who taught cynical political science in exchange for money. 
 so he introduced for the first time this idea: there are some ways of 
thinking, acting & Philosophy (which was BOTH theory and practice, an ancient 
Greek would have find it absurd to separate them!) that were closer to Being 
and some others that
were closer to not being... but *being* was a verb, not a noun...
-With the arrival of the early christian philosophy, GOD was introduced in 
our souls, and GOD became the 'true will' of each person... and obviously God 
became the Being as a noun... if a person tries to get closer to God,then he 
is getting closer to his Being, if a person acts 'against' God, he is acting 
against his Being, he is not being>>

Right--directly out of Plotinus to Augustine.
What about the Aristotelian and Thomistic ideas of ensoulment?

It seems to me that one of the really key elements of this transition is the
Reformation (The individualism of Luther).  We could trace it farther back
in literature to people like Dante, who placed such an obviously high degree
of importance on individuality, creativity and immortality.  Hence, I think
that the current which you point out really didn't take full shape as a
protothelemic individualism until the late Middle Ages/Early Renaissance,
but that's probably due to the theoretical setbacks of the Christian era
(anti-classical, anti-intellectual).  Naturally, it would be stupid to
characterize the Middle Ages as a period of ignorance, but there is clear
evidence that certain sophisticated ideas of Classical thought were lost
until at least the time of the Crusades.  Even a quick glance at Augustine
and Aquinas reveals that their vision of Christianity was far more
sophisticated and carefully systematized than most modern thinkers in the
Christian tradition.

> As a comment, it is interesting to see how much Nietzsche criticized this
> concept of 'TRUE will'...

The criticism you refer to is the crucial to the whole movement of
existentialism, which rejects the essentialist notion that we are born with
some sort of imprinted future--a soul that must realize itself.
Existentialism treats existence as primary to essence, and that we are
forced to build our selfhood and "Will" out of our context, abilities,
choices, words and actions.   All of this nonsense stems from what KZW 
describes  as the mistake of changing the idea of being as a verb to God as a 

It should be noted that both Nietzsche and Crowley were pretty deeply
enmeshed in the literary forms of Christianism.  Crowley was far more deeply
mired in it though.  (Since we have been talking around Heidegger, it might
be useful to point out his critique of Nietzsche: Metaphysics inverted is
still metaphysics.)

JTG*******I am still in the early stages of studying Augustine, but I am 
suggesting that Crowley saw himself as a modern Augustine, with the 
emphasis on the Will.  Crowley might be deemed a bit more philosophically 
palatable in that for Crowley the Neoplatonist, the divine will ("True 
Will") comes from the divine -in- each person, rather than from a God 
outside, as "grace" did for Augustine.  

Both Crowley and Augustine appeared to posit that a given 
individual was a composite.  Augustine although he would have been 
influenced by the Platonic notion of a tripartite soul (intellect, 
spirited part, and appetitive part) was also influenced strongly by the 
Manichean dualism of a two part soul - divine and animal.  Crowley seems 
to have leaned towards the two part soul - god and beast, although 
Crowley too seems to see the lower parts of the soul as plurality of 
competing wills and desires, with a unity arising only at the level of 
the divine in man, the True Self, and True Will.

    Augustine posited that God is that which is inmost in man.  
Crowley suggested that by magickal and mystical practices one could find 
one's "secret center".  

    Augustine saw God as that which connects all men, while Crowley 
saw a cosmic harmony in which the True Will of each individual would 
-not- conflict with the True Will of another individual.  Augustine 
therefore seems to suggest a surrender to something other than self, 
while Crowley seems to suggest a discovery and identification with self.

    Both Crowley and Augustine emphasis the primacy of will, and if 
one doesn't accept a form of Platonism in which reality = knowledge, then 
some other mechanism must be put forth by which correspondence can be 
explained (i.e. reality = true will; reality = God's will; Crowley and 
Augustine, respectively).  

    Augustine is credited in most textbooks with "inventing" the 
notion of "will".  Crowley is credited with deifying it.  Both these 
statements are simplistic and while true in a sense, omit too much.

    Augustine's concept of the will arose as NunTzaddi suggested in 
the Hellenistic and Roman culture of late antiquity.  Certainly St. Paul 
and Philo were widely known, as were other traditions, Neoplatonism, 
Neopythagoreanism, Aristotle, Stoics, Judeaism, Mystery Cults, etc.  My 
early suggestion was that there is an important distinction between the 
Jewish/Semetic tradition of Yahway and the Platonism of much of the other 
schools of thought.  Reconciling Jewish religion with Greek thought was 
indeed the work of centuries, centering around Alexandria (which was 
destroyed) but much of that is lost to us.  Augustine is thus seen as the 
central figure in that process, although if Alexandria hadn't burned, we 
might see him as a minor figure!

     Therefore just as Augustine was trying to reconcile Greek thought 
(Neoplatonism) with Jewish thought to create Christianity, so Crowley was 
trying to reconcile Magickal thought (Neoplatonism) with Christianity, to 
create Thelema (a new religion yes?).  The parallel between Crowley and 
Augustine seems strong, and indeed, is a credit to Crowley.

    As such, Crowley is worth serious thought and need not be 
relegated to the world of subjective opinions.  Unfortunately, Crowley 
was not a systematic writer, which makes following his ideas a bit 
difficult at times.
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