A Christian Argument for Thelema

Audio Version

Do what thou whilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The doctrine of original sin; I always thought it was a fucked up idea. I’m just born, an innocent little baby, yet I deserve hell for eternity just because I had the misfortune of being born human? Because some dude I never knew way back when did something God didn’t like? That makes me a sinner? How is that fair? How is that ok? What a ridiculous arbitrary system. But no it’s ok because God went and had his son (who is somehow also him at the same time) murdered to appease his wrath? Why can’t he just practice mindfulness meditation and calm himself down? Maybe go see a psychiatrist to learn how to manage his anger problem?

And here’s the kicker; that’s not even what Paul was on about in that passage. It’s an artifact of a bad translation. (See ISBN 978-0300265705)

Paul was saying that because Adam and Eve ate of the fruit they became aware of the dichotomy of good and evil. The sin and evil was already there, they just became aware of it and since they were aware of it they now had to deal with it. The original sin wasn’t even the eating of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, it was when they became ashamed of themselves for being naked and hiding from God. They willfully separated from God out of shame for their bodies which were his creation in the first place. So therefore having separated themselves from God they had to deal with the consequences of leaving communion with the godhead.

So now going beyond Paul, now here’s where it gets quabbalistic and where my penchant for ceremonial magick comes in. They separated from God. Their hearts (tipareth) fell from union with the Trinity (the supernals) rending the tree and leaving the abyss, da’at, behind where tipareth should be, and falling to earth (malcuth). By sending down Jesus he sent down a lifeline, the axis mundi, a ladder for humanity to climb to reunite with the godhead. Reuniting with the Christ consciousness (reconnecting the spark of life with the supernals, see The Gospel of Thomas 22) opens up the path of the serpent back up the tree, winding along from sephorot to sephorot until you reach the crown (keter) and reunite with God. You start living life in direct contact with your higher purpose and can live life according to your true purpose, your True Will as it were.

This is what quabbalistic ceremonial magick is all about, which is a major component of Thelema. It’s couched in Egyptian religious content instead of Christian (except where it isn’t; Thelema is not ashamed of its roots) but that’s basically the nuts and bolts of it.

Thelema’s take on that stuff is different of course. In Thelema the separation wasn’t due to sin or eating a fruit, nor was it hiding from god, it was done for altogether different reason, one which is much more beautiful:

For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. -Liber Al Vel Legis I:29

Love is the law, love under will.

The Tarot is Wrong on Purpose

Why the Ryder-Waite-Smith deck frustrates me

Audio Version

Do what thou whilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The Ryder Wait Smith tarot deck was made by members of the former Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Their actual divinatory tarot deck was secret, and had to be copied by hand by initiates when they reached the required grade, so to make a publicly available deck and also protect secrets they changed things and made them wrong on purpose. If you take one of the Golden Dawn decks (which have been made available to the general public following the HOGD’s demise) and compare it to the RWS and the Marseilles you can see what all they changed. The Marseilles was the common playing card version of the tarot back then. Some stuff missing from the Golden Dawn deck but in the RWS was carried over from the Marseilles tarot like the scroll the high priestess holds being carried over from the book the papess holds, albeit changing it from an unidentified book to specifically a scroll of the Torah (first four books of the Jewish bible). Those differences aren’t a problem, it’s the other ones that matter.

As you can see from this example the hexagram table of practice being used by the magician in the Golden Dawn decks was changed to the pentagram in the RWS. Now you might think why does it matter? Well the hexagram represents the macrocosm and the pentagram the microcosm, which is to say heaven vs earth. By making that change they changed the magician from practicing theurgy (magic done to get closer to God) to thamaturgy (magic done for practical outcomes). That difference matters when you’re interpreting the card. In the case of the hexagram it means someone doing the lord’s work so to speak whereas with the pentagram it’s someone practicing common witchcraft.

Another example is the headdress of the high priestess. In the Golden Dawn decks it’s the lunar crescent. In hermetic thought the moon represents the transition point in the creative process where the ideas transition from purely conceptual to material. In the RWS the lunar crescent is broken in two with a circle in the middle. There is a full crescent to be found but it’s at her feet. That combined with the pillars jachin and boaz plus the fruity depiction of the tree of life behind her places her just above yesod on the tree of life. What that means isn’t really important other than knowing that’s not where the high priestess card goes on the tree of life, so that correspondence is broken. The cup is missing and the water motif is gone further disconnecting the card with its proper symbolism. (Though one could make the argument that the barely visible background color being blue is this, I disagree.) Then she wears an equal armed cross. The equal armed cross has a number of meanings but in this context it refers to the four elements. This only furthers her being in the wrong place on the tree. The place where she is then moved is the same place the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram is done, which is a ritual used to banish the element of earth and call down the element of spirit. Effectively this culminates in the same sort of stripping of power and connection to the divine in favor of being on earth, as far away from source as you can be, left to endlessly study a holy text in hopes of getting even a small taste of the divine from the words and pages.

So why does any of that matter that much? Why not just use a different deck? Unfortunately it’s not that simple. The RWS deck is incredibly popular and a lot of decks are made based on it implementing their own changes. Well if the deck is based on a deck that’s already wrong, and then the artist makes their own changes, even more can be wrong. This can serve as a compounding effect on wrong symbolism meaning the mismatch between what’s on the card and what it actually means is higher. The schism can mean the reading could get things wrong that it otherwise might not have.

(I also find the Golden Dawn decks frustrating as well but that’s because צ is not The Star but that’s a Thelema thing only tangentially relevant.)

There’s examples like this throughout the deck and I could spend a whole day discussing it but I feel I’ve been sufficiently verbose in what I have said up to this point. That being said I hope I managed to explain this complex occult topic in a way that’s able to be parsed by a layman.

Love is the law, love under will.