Esoteric Encyclopedia

Esoteric Encyclopedia Entry of the Week: Abbey of Thelema

The Abbey of Thelema was a small house, used as a temple and spiritual center founded by Aleister Crowley and Leah Hirsig in Cefalù, Sicily in 1920. According to Wikipedia:

The name was borrowed from François Rabelais‘s satire Gargantua and Pantagruel,[2] where an Abbaye de Thélème is described as a sort of “anti-monastery” where the lives of the inhabitants were “spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure.”[3] This idealistic utopia was to be the model of Crowley’s commune, while also being a type of magical school, giving it the designation “Collegium ad Spiritum Sanctum”, A College towards the Holy Spirit. The general program was in line with the A∴A∴ course of training, and included daily adorations to the sun, a study of Crowley’s writings, regular yogic and ritual practices (which were to be recorded), as well as general domestic labor. The object was for students to devote themselves to the Great Work of discovering and manifesting their True Will.[citation needed]

Crowley had planned to transform the small house into a global center of magical devotion and perhaps to gain tuition fees paid by acolytes seeking training in the Magical Arts; these fees would further assist him in his efforts to promulgate Thelema and publish his manuscripts.[citation needed]

Two women, Hirsig and Shumway (her magical name was Sister Cypris after Aphrodite), both became pregnant by Crowley at the Abbey. Hirsig had a miscarriage, but Shumway gave birth to a daughter (11/12/20), Astarte Lulu Panthea. From 1931, Astarte was raised in the US by Helene Fraux. Astarte would grow up to have four children of her own, including jazz pianist Eric Muhler. On arrival in Sicily, Hirsig had a two-year old son named Hansi and Shumway had a three-year old son named Howard; they were not Crowley’s sons but he nicknamed them Dionysus and Hermes respectively. At some point, Hirsig suspected Shumway of magickal foul play, and Crowley found supporting evidence of it in Shumway’s magickal diary (everybody had to keep one while at the abbey for reasons explained in Liber E). Appalled, Crowley banished Shumway from the abbey, however, she soon returned to take care of her children.”

To learn even more about Crowley’s work, be sure to check out our interview with Tobias Churton, author of “Aleister Crowley: Spiritual Revolutionary, Occult Master, and Spy” (see video below).

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