Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) is one of Britain’s most famous occultists, whose spiritual philosophy of Thelema often summarised in the motto: ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law; love under will. The word thelema means ‘will’ in Greek; and for Crowley it was the goal each person to find their true will and act in accordance with it.
Crowley found inspiration in the sixteenth-century magical work ‘The Book of Abra-melin the Mage’ which is dedicated to attaining the knowledge and conversation of one’s holy guardian angel. This, for Crowley, corresponded to attaining knowledge of one’s true will. He thus developed his own blend of the oil used in the ritual to call the angel: this is the Crowley Blend of Abramelin Oil.
As well as The Book of the Law, the student of Thelema also works with tarot cards: Crowley’s deck was painted and co-designed by Frieda Harris in the early 1940s.
Crowley’s work revels in upsetting norms and reclaiming natural desires and vital urges to individuality which society often suppresses: be it sexuality, individuality or personal freedom. The union of opposite forces, and their acknowledgement, is hugely important in Thelema. The image of Baphomet, originally drawn by Eliphas Levi, encapsulates this outlook: male-female, black-white. Crowley wrote also that The Devil card in his tarot deck is Baphomet, who in turn is the Greek god Pan, the All-Begetter who is ‘creative energy in its most material form.’
Aleister Crowley deeply enjoyed shocking the polite society which he felt stultified human creativity, joy and individuality – to the extent that he proudly wore the title given to him by the tabloid press as ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’. Yet his philosophy emphasises the divinity of each person. As he wrote: ‘Every man and every woman is a star’.