Abbey of Thelema
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Abbey of Thelema, 2017
|Full name||The Abbey of Thelema in Cefalù|
|Controlled churches||Gnostic Catholic Church|
|Visible remains||chapter house, sacristy, parts of the frater and infirmary room|
|Public access||free access|
The name was borrowed from François Rabelais's satire Gargantua and Pantagruel, 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."
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.
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.
In 1923 a 23-year-old Oxford undergraduate by the name of Raoul Loveday (or Frederick Charles Loveday) died at the Abbey. His wife, Betty May, variously blamed the death on his participation in one of Crowley's rituals (allegedly incorporating the consumption of the blood of a sacrificed cat) or the more probable diagnosis of acute enteric fever contracted by drinking from a mountain spring. Crowley had warned the couple against drinking the water, as reported in biographies by Lawrence Sutin, Richard Kaczynski and others.
When May returned to London, she gave an interview to a tabloid paper, The Sunday Express, which included her story in its ongoing attacks on Crowley. With these and similar rumors about activities at the Abbey in mind, Benito Mussolini's government demanded that Crowley leave the country in 1923. After Crowley's departure, the Abbey of Thelema was eventually abandoned and local residents whitewashed over Crowley's murals.
Jane Wolfe worked with Crowley's Thelemic system of training in Cefalù for three years, and emerged from those years with a degree of attainment, having survived Crowley’s ordeals. Whilst a resident at the Abbey of Thelema, Wolfe was admitted to the A∴A∴ by Crowley, taking the magickal name Soror Estai. She undertook various practises including yoga, dharana and pranayama of which she kept a detailed record which was later published by the College of Thelema of Northern California as The Cefalu Diaries. She later worked as Crowley’s personal representative in London and Paris.
Current status and popular culture
- The villa still stands today, but in poor condition. Filmmaker Kenneth Anger, himself a devotee of Crowley, later uncovered and filmed some of its murals in his film Thelema Abbey (1955), now considered a lost film. Recently, other murals were uncovered, and pictures of them were posted on the Internet. "Abbey of Thelema" remains a popular name for various magical societies, Witchcraft covens, and Satanist grottoes.
- Danish artist Joachim Koester created five colour and five black and white photographs of the villa; these photographs comprise his ‘Morning of the Magicians’ (2005) work.
- Kenneth Anger revisited the Abbey in 2007, 52 years after his 1955 visit, and made a short video which can be found as an extra on the Anger Me DVD.
- A song called "Abbey of Thelema" was included in the first Gillan band album.
- Sutin, Do What Thou Wilt, p. 279
- Colin Wilson, Nature of the Beast, p. 73
- Rabelais, F. Gargantua and Pantagruel, Ch. 1.
- The well-known Sicilian Novelist, Leonardo Sciascia, has an amusing short story about Crowley's expulsion from Sicily. Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley, page 13
- Jane Wolfe: The Cefalu Diaries 1920 – 1923. College of Thelema of Northern California, 2008.
- In The Continuum II-5 1979, pp. 35.
- MacDonald, Scott (30 January 2006). A Critical Cinema 5: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. University of California Press. p. 49. ISBN 0520245946.
- "Joachim Koester - MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art.
- Shoemaker, David (2017). Jane Wolfe: The Cefalu Diaries 1920 - 1923. Temple of the Silver Star. ISBN 978-09976686-3-6.
- In The Continuum II-5, College of Thelema (1979). ITC Vol. II, No. 5. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
- In The Continuum III-4, College of Thelema (1983). ITC Vol. III, No. 4. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
- In The Continuum III-5, College of Thelema (1984). ITC Vol. III, No. 5. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
- In The Continuum III-6, College of Thelema (1984). ITC Vol. III, No. 6. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
- In The Continuum IV, College of Thelema (1989). ITC Vol. IV, No. 5. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
- In The Continuum V-4, College of Thelema (1993). ITC Vol. V, No. 4. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
- In The Continuum V-9, College of Thelema (1996). ITC Vol. V, No. 9. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
- In The Continuum V-10, College of Thelema (1996). ITC Vol. V, No. 10. California: College of Thelema Publishing.
- Shoemaker, David (2017). Karl Germer: Selected letters. Temple of the Silver Star. ISBN 978-0-997668-65-0.
- Seckler, Phyllis (2010). Rorac Johnson; Gregory Peters; David Shoemaker (eds.). The Thoth Tarot, Astrology & Other Selected Writings. Teitan Press & College of Thelema of Northern California. ISBN 978-0-933429-27-7.
- Seckler, Phyllis (2012). Rorac Johnson; Gregory Peters; David Shoemaker (eds.). The Kabbalah, Magick, and Thelema. Selected Writings Volume II. Teitan Press & College of Thelema of Northern California. ISBN 978-0-933429-28-4.
- Starr, Martin P. (2003). The Unknown God: W.T. Smith and the Thelemites. Bollingbrook, Illinois: Teitan Press. ISBN 978-0-933429-07-9.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abbey of Thelema.|
- Thélema Abbey - Official website from Sicily[dead link]
- Photos of the Abbey from 2005
- Abbey of Thelema movie on IMDB
- Photos from cefalù
- "No resurrection without psychoplastic re-shape". An article by the Austrian Philosopher Andreas L. Hofbauer about the Abbey, original pictures of the replica of the Chambre des Cauchemars by the artist René Luckhardt and about ritual chambers in general