The Heart of Thelema: Morality, Amorality, and Immorality in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Cult


  • Mogg Morgan Independent scholar



Aleister Crowley, Egyptology, ethics, magical religion, Nietzsche


In the wisdom literature of ancient Egypt, as in modern culture, the heart is a physical organ but also a metaphor for one’s moral centre. Aleister Crowley is the founder of a small but significant magical cult that claims to be a revival of Egyptian magical religion. Some Thelemites do not admit moral distinctions or judgments; and are in this sense amoral. Moral issues are raised in a core passage in Crowley’s inspired text, Liber AL (II 18-21) which presents the essence of its “Nietzchean standpoint.” Crowley rarely departed from this “Law of the jungle.” Crowley acknowledged and validated a magical “son”, Charles Stansfield Jones (Frater Achad) as “the one” who would unlock the true meanings of Liber AL. Jones promulgated a revisionist interpretation, more liberal and in tune with the philosophy of Ma’at, the ancient Egyptian personification of justice. Jones wrote that: “by trying to help Humanity as a Whole, without distinction, as far as in me lay, I could learn to do the Will of God, or the True Will.” Rejected by Crowley and other important opinion formers, Jones’ ideas continued an ex cathedra existence, gathering followers anxious to make Thelema more relevant. Recently published correspondence between Crowley and Jones will apparently show that toward the end of his life, Crowley acknowledged Jones interpretation as valid and equal to his own. In the years since Crowley’s death there has been an interesting revival of Ma’atian philosophy in the mainstream and independent of Neo-Paganism. Pan African Political groups have found in it material for an ethical system that avoids the tradition of Abrahamic faiths and also Mediterranean ethno-centrism. There has been new research, especially on the socalled “Negative Confession.” The philosophy of Ma’at emphasises our social being. Its first principle is “I have not impoverished the people.” Thelemites are shown to have views relevant to controversy between individualism, free will and social justice.

Author Biography

Mogg Morgan, Independent scholar

Mogg Morgan heads the publishing house Mandrake of Oxford and is an independent scholar specializing in ancient Egyptian magic, Paganism, and the South Asian intellectual tradition.


Crowley, Aleister. The Book of the Law. In The Holy Books of Thelema. York Beach, Me: Weiser, 1988.

———. The Book of Thoth. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1969.

———. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography. Edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant. London: Cape, 1969.

———. The Law is for All: An Extended Commentary On the The Book of the Law. Edited by Israel Regardie. Phoenix: Falcon Press, 1983 [1954].

———. The Law is for All: The Authorized Popular Commentary to the Book of the Law. Edited by Louis Wilkinson and Hymenaeus Beta. Las Vegas, New Falcon Press, 1986

———. The Law of Liberty, small tract or advertisement published in The Equinox 3, no 1 (1919).

———. “Liber II: Message of the Master Therion.” The Equinox 3, no. 1 (1919): 14–16.

———. Liber LII Manifesto of the O.T.O. Clause 4. The Equinox 3, no. 1 (1919): 195- 206.

———. Liber ALEPH vel CXI The BOOK of WISDOM or FOLLY in the Form of an Epistle of 666 THE GREAT WILD BEAST to his Son 777 being THE EQUINOX VOLUME III NUMBER VI by THE MASTER THERION. New York: Weiser, 1971.

———. Magick Liber ABA. York Beach, Me.: Weiser, 1997.

———. Magick Without Tears. Edited by Israel Regardie. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1973.

Drioton, Étienne. Le jugement des âmes dans l’ancienne Égypte. Cairo: Éditions de la Revue du Caire, 1949.

Der Manuelian, Peter. “The Giza Mastaba Niche and Full Frontal Figure of Redi-nes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.” In For His Ka: Essays Offered in Memory of Klaus Baer. Edited by David P. Silverman, 55–78. Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1994.

Grant, Kenneth. The Magical Revival. London: Muller, 1972.

———. Outside the Circles of Time. London: Muller, 1980.

Greishammer, Reinhard. Das Jenseitsgericht in den Sargtexten..Wiesbaden : Otto Harrasowitz 1970.

———. Zum Sitz im Leben das “negativen Sudenbekenntnisses” (ZDMG, Sup II 1974 19-25).

Hornung, Erik. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt : The One and the Many. Translated by John Baines. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.

———. Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife. Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.

———. The Secret Lore of Egypt: Its Impact on the West. Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 20001.

Jones, Charles Stansfield (Frater Achad) The Egyptian Revival or The Ever-Coming Son in The Light of the Tarot. Chicago: Privately published, 1923.

———. The Incoming of the Aeon of Maat. London: Starfire 2012.

———. Liber Thirty-One 1918 (electronic version Benjamine Rowe 1999).

———. Q. B. L. Or The Bride’s Reception, Being a short Qabalistic Treatise on the Nature and use of the Tree of Life. New York: Weiser, 1969 [1922].

Karenga, Maulana. Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Kelly, Benjamin. Petitions, Litigation and Social Control in Roman Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol 1: The Old and Middle Kingdoms. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.

———. Ancient Egyptian literature, Vol.3, The Late Period. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

Marx, Karl. Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Marx Engels Collected works. New York: International Publishers, 1976.

Merkelbach. Reinhold. “Ein Griechisch-agyptische priestereid und das Totenbuch” in Colloque de Strasbourg, Religions en Égypte Hellénistique et Romaine (CESS Paris 1969 : 69-73)

Naville, Edouard. The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Translated by Peter Le Page Renouf. London: Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1904.

Nema. “The Book of Maat.” Cincinnati Journal of Ceremonial Magick 3, no. 1 (1976): 26–38.

Nema, Maat Magick: A Guide to Self-Initiation. York Beach, Me.: Samuel Weiser, 1995.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Anti-Christ, Introduction by Michael Tanner. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990.

Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge: Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971. Redford, Susan. The Harem Conspiracy: The Murder of Rameses III. DeKalb, Ill: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002.

Sandel, Michael. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Sethe, Kurt Heinrich. Die Altaegyptischen Pyramidentexte Leipzig: Hinrich, 1908–1922.

Staley, Michael. “Supping at the Angel and Feathers.” Starfire : A Journal of the New Aeon 1, no. 5 (1994): 9–24

———. “Title page & Foreword” Starfire: A Journal of the New Aeon 2, no. 3 (2009): 3–8

Starr, Martin. The Unknown God: W. T. Smith and the Thelemites. Bolingbrook, Ill. Teitan Press 2003.

Sutcliffe, Richard. “Left-Hand Magick: An Historical and Philosophical Overview.” In Paganism Today, edited by Charlotte Hardman and Graham Harvey, 109–137. London: Thorsons, 1995.

Teeter, Emily. Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Te Velde, Herman. Seth: God of Confusion. Leiden: Brill, 1977.

Tully, Caroline. “Walk Like an Egyptian: Egypt as Authority in Aleister Crowley’s Reception of The Book of the Law.” Pomegranate 12, no. 1 (2010): 20–47

Versteeg, Ross. Law In Ancient Egypt. Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2002.

Wilson, John. The Culture of Ancient Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951.



How to Cite

Morgan, M. (2013). The Heart of Thelema: Morality, Amorality, and Immorality in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Cult. Pomegranate, 13(2), 163–183.