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Thelema, history of

From: Jeffrey Smith 
Subject: Re: Thelema, history of
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 1996 19:38:20 -0400 (EDT)

Actually I was thinking of Stoicism, Epicureanism, and the other 
non-Platonic forms which dominated intellectual life in the Hellenistic 
states, the late Roman Republic, and the early Roman Empire,  which 
reduced the gods of the cultural religion to vapid nonentities, and 
elevated Fate and Providence to a rather abstract divinity.  Indeed, 
given the role of Fate in these systems, some of which reduced the 
individual Will to a powerless tool under the duress of Destiny (or 
whatever), one could call them fairly unThelemic.

OTOH, Stoicism is a fine vehicle for training the will.   See for example 
the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the apothegms of Epictetus.

As to the term itself, Will/Thelema did not play an important role in 
Greek thinking--at least in the way that we think of.  If it came up at 
all, it was merely as a means in discussions about the ends.   See, for a 
good example, the Symposium (Plato's, not Xenophon's), and Socrates' 
report of Diotima's teaching.  One could read Will into there, and 
paraphrase in those terms, but Plato did not write it up that way.  Plato 
has Socrates analyze courage and justice and human language, among other 
things, but never Will per se.

Will in fact is a concept for which we are indebted to the Bible.   Will 
first appears in the teaching that became the Jewish Bible.   It also 
appears in the Zoroastrian tradition--whether one imported the idea from 
the other, or if the two developed it independently, and which one is the 
earlier one, is a question not very easy to answer, and for our purposes, 
not relevant, since it was the Jewish tradition which had the major 
influence, especially after the Xtian writers expanded on the topic.  But 
the Scriptures are essentially a body of writing devoted to analyzing the 
concepts of human will, divine will, and the interaction of the two.  The 
two famous axioms--love is the law/do what thou wilt--can be defended as 
very Biblical.   The Caliphate may not be Xtian, but Thelema is Biblical. 
In a way.

Be well.

  Jeffrey Smith

"On this spot in 1897 NOTHING HAPPENED"--Historical marker, Home Savings 
Bank building, Hollywood, FL.

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