Does Thelema need an ecclesiastical hierarchy? (with my thoughts on how Crowley got it wrong)

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

This is an expansion of a discussion I began on Twitter. I posited the following open question: Do you believe that there is an actual need for an ecclesiastical hierarchy in Thelema or is this just a throw-back to the Aeon of Osiris? This was met with several responses that said that “[T]here is nothing about ecclesiastical hierarchy which is inherently old-aeon. It’s just a structure like any other” or that “a hierarchy based on knowledge is perhaps even desirable.” Please respond below with your thoughts and opinion. This is a very important discussion that needs to take place. Thelema needs to take a deep look at its current state and ask, “Are we doing this right?”

I tend to believe that Thelema is a sort of “holy” libertarianism. What I mean is that we should downplay hierarchy and classism instead of embracing it. An element of the last Aeon’s religions was that they required a hierarchy that possessed sacerdotal power reserved to a class of “magicians.” All of Christianity operated in this fashion until the 1500’s and still does to a great extent.

I believe that the Protestant Reformation began a chain reaction that lead to the present Aeon of Horus, or that of the crowned and conquering child. It prepared the way for To Mega Therion’s Gospel of Light, Life, Love and Liberty. By tearing down the need of religious hierarchy it destroyed the means by which Old Aeon religions controlled their adherents. The Enlightenment and Renaissance played a vital role in this development as well, but I think the directest assault against religious oppression occurred in the Reformation.

I believe that is very regressive to impose religious hierarchies upon Thelema. I know that people disagree with me, but my interpretation of Liber AL leave no room for religious oppression; all are equal under the Law and the rights it gives to those that accept it (see Liber OZ). Many people in the Thelemic and wider occult communities seem to practice their relgion, whether independently or in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, in a way more reminiscent of LARPing than a serious spiritual fashion. They get caught up in hierarchies and titles instead of focusing on true spiritual awakening. This obsession is counter productive and coupled with ridiculous beliefs in summoning demons, spirits and the like, is downright destructive.

I think that Aleister Crowley made two serious mistakes in the propagation of the Law. First, he couched his system with Satanic imagery, which to the enlightened person is understandable and descriptive, but  to the masses is repugnant. If he truly had any desire to see the Law propagated he would have understood this fact. I know Thelemites that will say that “provocation was the point,” “Crowley was a professional provocateur,” or “The Book of the Law says its followers will be ‘the secret and the few not the many and the known.'” I agree that Crowley was very good at rilling people up and did so intentionally. He claimed that magickal power lays in the “taboo” but this seems to be more of a justification for his own libertine behavior than anything else. Along with this justification he also had to justify the lack of success he experienced in the Law’s propagation by claiming it was the “elite” nature of his faith. Crowley was entrusted with a sacred task and largely failed because of his own person vendettas against society and destructive personal behavior. Second, Crowley’s imposition of hierarchy and sacramentals onto the Law take away its power and vitality. I believe this was a interpolation of Crowley and is awkwardly juxtaposed onto the Law. The biblical metaphor of “wineskins” may apply her. He put “new wine” in an “old wineskin” and it is now bursting at the seams.

I want to see Thelema escape the predicament that it is currently in. For such a powerful and liberating philosophy to be so marginalized is a travesty. Let us cast off the burden that some many of us have taken upon ourselves and experience the true freedom of the Law. This will begin when those called Thelemites understand that there is no hidden knowledge or wisdom but that the “Law is for all.” They must also understand that Crowely’s essentricsms are casualties to our cause and need not be our own.

Love is the law, love under will.

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13 Responses to Does Thelema need an ecclesiastical hierarchy? (with my thoughts on how Crowley got it wrong)

  1. Thelema says:


    1) I would rather die than see Thelema’s doctrines and imagery watered down to accommodate the lowest common denominator of humanity.
    2) The Book of the Law is quite clear about the “few and the secret” and that it is the “law of the strong.” I suggest you re evaluate your opinions about what Thelema is rather than superimposing some kind of democratic nonsense over it to justify your own beliefs by thinking them ‘Thelema’ rather than what the Book of the Law is actually saying. Structural hierarchy is inherent not only in Thelema but in Nature itself in so many ways.
    3) Thelema is not in a ‘predicament.’ The constant talk about this unknown ‘they’ who always do things wrong is the worst kind of argument.
    4) Continuing point 1… Contrary to your belief, any kind of belief system ‘opening itself up’ and becoming less of what it actually is – the various symbols, words, and rites that define it – to become more ‘palatable’ to the masses actually makes it less likely to succeed, thrive, and spread than maintaining its distinct identity and coherency.

    93 93/93

    • Thelema says:

      p.s. taking the name Hymenaeus Beta in URL and twitter form will only make you look discredited and mischievous. If you want to spread your own message, why push peoples’ buttons if you believe the same things in your post?

      • XIX says:

        I am using the pseudonym “Hymenaeus Beta” because it is convenient. I do not claim to be the OHO. It is not my fault if OTO was negligent and did not purchase the URLs before I did.

    • XIX says:


      1) I don’t think Thelema needs to be watered down. On the contrary, I want to see its vitality restored! Frankly, most Thelemites I see are marginalized individuals who belong in D&D conventions rather than in a religious hierarchy. This goes for the hierarchs of OTO and EGC as well: I have met many of them and I am not impressed.

      2) I do not need to justify my beliefs, their truth is self evident. Also, I do not believe The Book of the Law was divinely inspired anymore than the Bible was. I think that Crowley was enlightened when he manifested the Word of the Law, but I do not buy that Aiwass delivered it to him. Do you seriously believe every jot and tiddle of Liber AL? I don’t.

      3) What I have seen of Thelema makes me believe that instead of changing the world for the better most Thelemites are still wallowing in residual teen angst directed at Christianity. They lash out against society (like Crowley) instead of trying to truly better it. Do we really need to argue over how to consecrate a dagger or are there better things to talk about?

      93 93/93

      • 1 & 3: You need to get out more, honestly. Your experience of Thelema and Thelemites is extremely limited, given your own description.

        2: Self-evident: the scientific sounding phrase meaning “faith.”

      • XIX says:

        1. I have been exposed to enough to formulate an educated opinion.

        2. Touche.

      • 1 & 3: It’s obvious that it is your opinion and that you have a strong belief it is an educated one.

        I have a different point of view, which is that you either have very little experience, or you reject truth which does not pander to your prejudices, since your opinion is based on nothing but anecdote and rhetoric. Moreover, given that you have formed such an opinion in the absence of any scientific rigor, the fact that you consider your opinion to be “educated” leads me to think that you are probably more marginalized than most Thelemites, and that all this is some kind of projective defense mechanism on your part.

        My point of view is based on the survey which shows that very few O.T.O. members are, to use your word, “marginalized.” If I am wrong, prove it with a demonstration that you have conducted some form of objective analysis. If your opinion is the least bit “educated,” then offer a substantive critique of the survey (which you must have studied carefully).

        By the way, your use of the pseudonym “Hymenaeus Beta” is ridiculous and idiotic.

      • XIX says:

        Well, Joe, since you do not know who I am or anything about me other than what I have decided to post, I will forgive your slights. I can’t state that I have commenced a truly scientific study of most Thelemites other than the ones that I have met and become acquainted with. My criticisms of Thelemites in particular may apply to occultists in general.

        What survey are you referring to?

        Love, your friend,

        Hymenaeus Beta 😉

      • XIX says:

        I would too, since you don’t have one.

    • XIX says:

      P.S. I only used the word “they” once in this post. It was a minor point of my argument and it was predicated by a statement regarding many believers who are LARPing instead of truly practicing their faith.

      • Thelema says:


        You might’ve only used the word once but you constantly use the same rhetorical device. You did it again in your response “most Thelemites I see are marginalized individuals who belong in D&D conventions rather than in a religious hierarchy.” Its just an over-generalization and an unspoken “they.”

        1) “I don’t think Thelema needs to be watered down. On the contrary, I want to see its vitality restored!” You clearly say you don’t like Crowley’s “satanic imagery,” most of which comes from the Holy Books themselves including especially Liber 220 & LIber 418. If you don’t want the symbolism because it will scare people away you are watering it down for the least common denominator.
        2) Truth is not self-evident, first of all, and secondly you are superimposing your own ideas onto Thelema and thereby granting them some legitimacy. If you have your own self-evident truths of ideas why do you feel the need to call it ‘Thelema’ when the Holy Books and AC’s commentaries, which the books themselves tell us to refer to along with the Comment,
        clearly contradict you on several points including the necessity of hierarchy and the use of certain symbolism?
        3) There are very few Thelemites who I know that are like this. Are you sure this isn’t a projection of your own earlier years? Yes, there are some that are angsty against Christianity – and probably for good reason – but the notion that “most Thelemites” (again, that nefarious “they”) are simply anti-Christians is pretty silly.

        p.s. its not anyone’s fault that people didn’t register the domain names but the fact that you go by someone’s well known pseudonym is not simply convenient unless you think it is convenient to lack creativity to come up with one’s own name & to imitate other people and put on a spurious sense of false authority.

        93 93/93

      • XIX says:

        1. I didn’t say that I did not want the imagery. I said that even if the descriptions are helpful to those of us that can get past terms such as “The Great Beast” and “666” they are self-defeating if the purpose is to spread the Law. Crowley use these terms for reasons beyond literary device, and in my opinion, did so to offend and provoke people with little concern for anything else.

        2. Perhaps. Reason however helps us understand the truth and realize when we see it. I have said multiple times that Thelema is bigger than AC and that I do not accept his version in its entirety. Again, for Thelema to develop into a serious philosophy and way of life it needs to escape the eccentricities of AC and look at him in a purely objective light.

        3. I am quite sure this is not a projection of my earlier years. I can make generalizations if I want to, especially when you don’t make any true arguments to the contrary.

        PS Actually, it is. Any professional or public figure knows they need to obtain their name URL. I also have as well. Perhaps I will start a dialogue between the OHOs? And I never claim to be Bill Breeze or claim to be an authority. It is the false authority of OTO and EGC that I am combating, not my own.

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