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Marriage in Thelema

Marriage in Thelema - IAO131

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

Marry if it be your Will

What is the view of Thelema on marriage? In the end, it comes down to “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” If marriage fulfills your Will (and the other individual’s as well), then that is clearly what you should do. If marriage thwarts your Will, the other’s Will, or both of your Wills, then that is clearly something you should avoid.

On the level of the Law of Thelema, it really is that simple. Simple doesn’t mean it is easy, though – the task is still yours to determine whether or not marriage (or any choice) fulfills or thwarts the full expression of your Being. Each of us is unique and therefore has a unique Will to figure out and do.

We are each at a unique point in space and time, coming to each situation with different backgrounds, influences, hopes, and ideals. In the context of marriage, this means that the very meaning of marriage will differ drastically from person to person. One couple may see marriage as a formalized expression of their love. Another individual might see it as a restrictive bond insisted upon because of outmoded traditions handed down through the generations. Another couple might see it as a financially advantageous way to support themselves. These are only three of many possible approaches to marriage, you must decide for yourself  if it is meaningful and fulfilling for you or not. In the end, it is up to you to determine what your Will is, just as in every other situation in living as a Thelemite.

Aleister Crowley on Marriage

Aleister Crowley was not particularly fond of the institution of marriage.

“It seems as if the fact of Marriage destroys every natural characteristic, and has a set of rules of its own diametrically opposed in spirit and letter to those which govern Love. I confidently appeal to impartial observers to say whether the ideals of the Book [of the Law] are not cleaner, more wholesome, more human, and more truly moral than those of Marriage as it is.”
–Aleister Crowley (New Comment to AL I:51)

Aleister Crowley married Maria de Miramar
Aleister Crowley with Maria de Miramar — LIFE Magazine (1929)

Crowley himself was in fact married twice, first to Rose Kelley in 1903 and then to Maria de Miramar in 1929. The fact that he was married is really unimportant except to show that he clearly was not against it in principle.

However, Crowley’s marriage to Rose is significant to the history of Thelema, and therefore relevant to our discussion. As the story goes, Crowley swooped Rose away from an unwanted marriage and to a honeymoon that culminated in the reception of The Book of the Law. 

A portion of the second chapter of The Book of the Law lists feasts that are to be celebrated. Among these feasts is listed: “A feast for the first night of the Prophet and his Bride!” Crowley comments on this line:

“There should be a special feast on the 12th day of August in every year, since it was the marriage of The Beast which made possible the revelation of the New Law. (This is not an Apology for Marriage. Hard Cases make Bad Law).”
–Aleister Crowley (New Comment to AL II:37)

The feast is celebrating the union of Aleister Crowley (The Beast) with Rose, which “made possible the revelation” of The Book of the Law. He makes it very clearly that that “is not an Apology for Marriage.” Here “apology” is being used in its sense as meaning a “justification” or “defense”, as in: Crowley is no apologist for the institution of marriage. He then proceeds to make a typical Crowleyesque joke with the legal maxim that “hard cases make bad law,” or that it is bad to make general laws based on extreme cases.

The Thelemic View of Marriage

It is important to point out that Crowley makes frequent use of marriage as a symbol of the union of opposites, and marriage is often equated symbolically with sexual union.

The hieros gamos or holy marriage is a fundamental and recurring feature of Thelema’s symbolism. There is the union of Hadit and Nuit, the Adept with their Holy Guardian Angel, Priest and Priestess in the Gnostic Mass, Babalon and Beast, and so on. However, none of this symbolism has any real bearing upon the social institution of marriage as such. The fact that “marriage” appears in Thelemic language and symbolism does not mean Thelema supports the social institution of marriage in any form. Its appearance is not an apology for marriage, one might say.

Then, what does Thelema say about marriage as a social institution?

Thelema does not support the institution of marriage, but it does not denigrate it either.

Thelema most certainly does NOT uphold the idea that marriages should be until death, inherently imply sexual monogamy, or only be between men and women. In fact, Thelema is entirely silent on these details and only thunders forth the same truth that “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”

Love is the law, love under will. 

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IAO131 is the co-creator of the Thelemic Union and the author of several books on Thelema including HRILIU , Fresh Fever From the Skies, Naturalistic Occultism, Thelema Sutras, and many another essay and lecture. He is the founder of the Blazing Star OTO YouTube channel where you can see some of his lectures, co-creator of the Speech in the Silence podcast, the founding curator of The Grady McMurtry Project, and the creator of The Journal of Thelemic Studies. He is currently Master of Blazing Star Oasis O.T.O. in Oakland, California and serves as an Ordained Priest of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.) and a chartered initiator of Mysteria Mystica Maxima (M∴M∴M∴).

One thought on “Marriage in Thelema

  1. As an almost 44-year-old mother of two, I welcomed legal state marriage into my life this past summer. Never before had I wanted to engage that paradigm. With my new love, it became desirable to work at reclaiming marriage for myself, and to unearth all of my fears and superstitions around it’s legacy due, in part, to my partner being all about it! By virtue of having invited this person into my life, I was obviously open to reinventing this for myself. What actually has helped me to shift my place of standing in relation to marriage over these past years has been my study of The law of Liberty.. For a couple decades now on my spiritual journey, I have viewed relationship as a path to growth and self knowledge. I’m guilty of being a serial monogamist. I enjoy the microcosm of a deeply intimate relationship, and how it embodies the interplay of the lover and the Beloved, or the attempt to unite with the Divine through a commitment to ruthless self understanding and surrender (when the relationship is conducive to such. Many prove not to be.). I am still learning what marriage means for me (the only concept of marriage that I can get behind), and it’s been a pretty great unfolding as I cast off old paradigms and fears that must be in my giant suitcase full of ancestral trauma! Like everything on this journey for me, saying Yes to marriage is about being receptive to what my Will is… what lessons and growth I am about, and to get to what’s authentic in me, uniquely. Marriage and all of its mysteries is part of that on my particular life journey… Go freakin figure. I fought it so hard for so long! I am embracing the unknown of marriage nowadays, and working toward employing it to refine my character and to help make me a more finely tuned instrument of divine will. It is the Great Work, a perfect laboratory and gauge of how I’m actually doing as an Initiate. I receive instant feedback on my success or failure as a magician. It is the fire under my ass everyday that reminds me of my one pointedness. I’m grateful that I gave it a chance, and I only did so because the right partner appeared, and muchly because of my understanding of Thelema. If not for exactly him, and it, I can’t say that I’d ever invite marriage into my life!

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