Yesterday’s blog dealt with the current issue of the importance of tradition in the Pagan-Wiccan world. Of course Thelema has no tradition; there is no official organ that disseminates the ‘correct’ interpretation of the Thelemite Holy Books. This makes Thelema a nebulous, almost invisible, spiritual movement. Whilst witchcraft, itself younger than Thelema by almost half a century, has become widely known and accepted by the mainstream public, Thelema remains almost totally unknown except to the more committed occultist (and to the more committed Christian too for some reason). This means that, unlike Wicca, Thelema will remain relatively elitist, individualistic and it will never achieve the mass acceptance of a more recognizable nature religion like Paganism.
On the surface it must seem that the message of the Book of the Law is that the new aeon is here to overthrow the old one. It states that the Aeon of Horus has come and replaced that of his father Osiris, the dying god. But Horus is the avenging god and restores his father to divinity, making him the ruler of the underworld. The hard won spiritual knowledge of the past isn’t to be cast aside but rather to be incorporated into a renewed spiritual perception. Ra Hoor Khuit promises to transform the world’s established religions and put them to his service. The correctness of this prophecy, made in 1904, is at times astounding. (For more on these prophecies see- A Comment on the Verses of the Book of the Law, D G Mattichak jr, esp. Chapter 6).
As I said, Thelema is elitist by its very nature but the Book of the Law indicates that the new aeon will match the inner, exclusive practice with an outer, public form of worship. The description in the First Chapter implies that the outer, known form of worship of Thelema will be an organic, naturalist spiritual movement. This fact was certainly not lost on Aleister Crowley and it is a well known fact that he was keenly interested in establishing just such a cult, almost certainly influenced by the proto-pagan naturalist groups operating in Germany in the early part of the 20th Century. I don’t imagine for a minute that Crowley ‘invented’ Wicca, but I am sure that when Gerald Gardner came to him in 1946 to sketch out a plan for establishing a witch cult in Britain that Crowley had plenty to contribute.
In one of the earliest popular books of Wicca, Witchcraft for Tomorrow, Doreen Valiente uses an ‘Elevenfold Invocation to Abrahadabra’. When I first read this I wondered why traditional witchcraft was using Crowley’s trademark magick word. Abrahadabra is central to the magickal discipline of Thelema and has little to do with a Triple Goddess or Her Horned Consort. But obviously this early connection with, or reliance upon, Golden Dawn magickal forms means that Thelema and Wicca are inextricably linked and it may be that Wicca or Paganism is the most acceptable form of congregational worship for Thelemite magicians.
It has been for that reason that I have taken an interest in Wicca even though I have pursued the Thelemite path for far too long to take up Paganism. Over the years I have known many aspiring magicians who have attempted to follow the Thelemite discipline and most have failed. Many of them have gone on to find fulfillment in Wicca or Paganism and have not had to deny Thelema in the process. I have always felt an empathy with Witches and their struggles for the acceptance of their religion as a recognized spiritual practice. Thelema can never hope to achieve even the same amount of public approval as Witches already have gotten but its extreme elitism will ensure that it endures perhaps if only because people want most what they cannot have.
Thelema’s spiritual practices tend to be individualistic, centered on the magician and generally non-congregational and whilst I am not saying that Wicca has been made up to suit Thelemites that want to participate in group worship, the origins of both movements gives them a unique relationship that will continue to influence both Thelemites and Pagans well into the future. Whilst it is true that Wiccan covens are somewhat exclusionist the regime is changing and Wicca-Paganism is developing a public face. At the same time Hermetic Orders and Thelemite organizations of genuine merit are exclusively secretive and almost always unknown to the public, and membership is always elitist and exclusive. Even so, Thelemites can learn much about the future of their own sect from watching the development of Wicca in the present.