By contrast, the affirmation of belief in a supreme being is of no special consequence in Thelema. Crowley insists:
[w]hether you are a Christian or a Buddhist, a Theist or (as I am myself, thank God!) an Atheist, the attainment of this one state [of mystical realization] is as open to you as is nightmare, or madness, or intoxication. (The Gospel According to Saint Bernard Shaw, p. 117)In the Holy Books of Thelema, the aspirant is instructed that “To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism.” (Liber X, v. 19) Liber LXV even praises and blesses the "parricidal pomp of atheists" beheld by the speaker in its fifth chapter (vv. 34-37). Ultimately, 666 writes, “The God-idea must go with other relics of the Fear born of Ignorance into the limbo of savagery.” (The Law Is for All, p. 112)
Atheism is not the only alternative which Thelema offers to monotheistic faith. Polytheism is implicated throughout Thelemic scriptures and practices. The Rosicrucian-Hermetic background of Crowley's early initiation in the Golden Dawn valorizes the plural gods of ancient Egypt. The “Equinox of the Gods” invoked repeatedly in Liber Legis is a key case, as is the declaration of the communicant at the Gnostic Mass: “There is no part of me that is not of the gods” (a statement drawn from the Papyrus of Ani). Further orientation to the ancient mysteries and Romantic classicism leads to the notable incorporation of Dionysus, Pan, Aphrodite, and other gods from the ancient Hellenistic world.
The A.'.A.'. paper on bhakti yoga Liber Astarté vel Liber Berylli (sub figura CLXXV), while allowing for the adoration of Allah in point 4, mixes Him in with all manner of pagan deities in what is essentially a method of pious idolatry. This technical paper could in fact be viewed simply as an overt, sophisticated instruction in shirk, the sin against the unity of God. It is of no consequence that point 2 of the text insists that all gods “are but partial reflections” of “the Supreme.” From the perspective of Muhammad’s iman, the endorsement of practical idolatry in Liber CLXXV leads directly to the unforgivable crime of associating some lesser being with the ultimate godhead.
In the late work Magick without Tears, 666 further insists that polytheistic gods are not mere symbols or masks, but that they--along with the Holy Guardian Angel who may be classed as “so to speak, a private God”--are objective individuals (p. 465).
The support offered to the divergent premises of atheism and polytheism in Thelema may seem incoherent, but the Beast insists that this outcome is a natural function of the incoherence in the vulgar conception of God.
I know you thought you knew more or less what you meant when you wrote it; but surely that was a mere slip. An instant’s thought would have warned you that the word wouldn't stand even the most superficial analysis. You meant “Something which seems to me the most perfect symbol of all that I love, worship, admire”—all that class of verb.The preeminent textual situation in Thelema is of course The Book of the Law, where Crowley’s commentaries rigorously identify deity with humanity. Atheism is affirmed inasmuch as “I speak of the Idea of God as generally understood, God being ‘something not ourselves that makes for righteousness’—as Matthew Arnold victorianatically phrased his definition.” (The Law is for All p. 112) And polytheism is properly swallowed up in “a great and holy mystery. ... Every man and every woman is not only a part of God, but the Ultimate God.” (Ibid., p. 27)
...What's worse, whatever you may mean by “God” conveys no idea to me: I can only guess by the light of my exceedingly small knowledge of you and your general habits of thought and action. Then what sense was there in chucking it at my head? Half a brick would have served you better.
… “But you use the word all the time.” Yes, I do, and rely on the context to crystallize this most fluid—or gaseous—of expressions. (Ibid., p. 206)
This “theology,” if it can be called such, is the core of the message of E.G.C. saint William Blake: “Man is All Imagination. God is Man & exists in us & we in him” (marginalia to Berkeley, 219). And so we return to the fundamental O.T.O. doctrine "There is no god but man." Deus est homo. The Law of Do what thou wilt “is the most profound blasphemy possible against all ‘gods of men’, because it makes every man his own God.” (The Law is for All, p. 168)
(Other posts in this series...)