by Frater Ammonas
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
“Civilization is crumbling under our eyes…”Aleister Crowley, Confessions
An ideology, to become a living and breathing philosophy, must meet the needs and demands of those who adopt it. Philosophies are dead words and empty sounds unless they are translated into the lived experience of a real and particular individual, unless they infuse them with a sense of vibrancy or clarity or some other life-giving benefit.
A system whose understanding of the world is so outdated, so painfully and obviously false, so unnecessarily restrictive and limiting, that it has turned against Being itself, false about Nature and life and living. This is the graveyard known as organized religion. Or a system that leads people into fantasy, away from the world and from meeting reality head-on: that is merely an excuse, a symptom of a spiritual disease wherein the world as it is is not “good enough” so we must fabricate one to our liking. This is the graveyard known as alternative spirituality, though it gets new names every other year (“new age”, “witchtok”, etc…).
For Thelema to become a living and breathing philosophy, a genuine and authentic expression of that Eternal Tradition, it must meet the needs and demands of those who adopt it. And the needs of humanity are changing very quickly. The world as we know it is crumbling, unequivocally, objectively, and without doubt.
Needs and Freedom
Currently, Thelema appears to largely be in service of vain and shallow needs. Thelema is frequently simply another mode of consumeristic obsession with self-identity and self expression. Most do not seem to realize that this implies the already-existing satisfaction of more fundamental needs such as food, water, shelter, safety, and social support aside from more subtle psychological needs like belongingness and relatedness.
Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the capstone of self-actualization is supported by more basic physical and psychological needs. The obsession with self-identity, that “freedom” simply means freedom to express your unique personality, is a form of privilege. It is a tacit admission you have no other needs in life, that you have benefitted from a modern society that is able to unfailingly supply you with the confidence your basic needs will be met rather than plunging you into a constant existential struggle for food, money, shelter, or physical safety.
Consider that some people are enslaved, some starving, some enduring constant war, some dealing with bigotry and oppression, or those whose local ecosystems have been ravaged by the quickly changing agricultural and climate conditions on our planet. Can you imagine the utter contempt they would have for a philosophy whose entire apparent premise revolves around feeling like you should be able to say or dress however you want? It is not relevant. It is less than relevant, it is almost insulting to consider. “The solution to all your problems is this philosophy, and most of the debates are about gematria and qabalistic attributions”. Not how to end war, not how to create a world of peace and abundance, but fetishization of individualistic consumerism and pointless trivia.
A low fog has slowly crept up into bright unexamined confidence of modernity. The edges are fraying, the center cannot hold: those who pay attention cannot ignore the innumerable signals. The world is changing. We must change with it or we will perish. Our ideology must meet our needs and our needs are changing. Don’t believe me?
Critical climate change indicators broke records in 2021, our fish are poisoned with pharmaceuticals, microplastics have infested everyone’s bodies, in fact it is impossible to prevent children from ingesting microplastics, there are 60% fewer insects in the world since 2004, 50% of US lakes and rivers are too polluted for swimming or fishing, bird populations are decreasing across the US, the ice shelves are collapsing, extreme heat in the oceans has passed the point of no return already, despite pledges from various countries the world is heating up even faster, let alone the massive disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires that are growing in intensity every year. Climate change exacerbates economic insecurity and political instability, makes it more likely for the need for migration and also makes it more likely for humanitarian crises and upheaval. In other words, things are changing and very very quickly.
In the US at least, political divisions are more intense than ever before. Political violence has increased, mass shootings and gun violence have increased. White supremacy seems to be growing in force and size. A few years ago it seemed extreme to suggest there may be a civil war, but there are innumerable people including experts suggesting civil war is a distinct possibility. This is simply focusing on the US, but there is a global rise of the far right and an increasing threat of authoritarianism in all its forms.
An Apocalyptic Thelema
What does this mean for us and Thelema? The end of the world as we know it may be coming. In fact, we may already be in the transition period: we may look back on several events that have already happened as the irreversible turning points for our apocalyptic future. The traditional systems of supply may fail at some point. Political upheaval may lead to the reversal of people exercising longstanding rights that they thought were immutable. Do we really think that Thelema in its current form will persist and flourish in these new conditions? A rugged Thelema would be needed, one that is relevant to people’s lives who live in our apocalyptic world with open eyes.
I foresee that, if Thelema as an ideology does not altogether evaporate into nothingness upon touching a world with actual conflict and struggle, it must adapt to these conditions. Apocalyptic Thelema must meet the needs of an apocalyptic world. I believe this Thelema would primarily focus on the development of virtues that are conducive to survival in this world. Resilience, cooperation, adaptability, perseverance, and amiability. Real qualities that have tangible benefits in building a sustainable community in times of difficulty.
Also: Physical, mental, and social support of all kinds to one another is what will be needed. We may need to give up the Victorian (and American) fantasy of the rugged individual who conquers all things by virtue of their own personal will, and move toward a more realistic and healthy understanding of the interconnection and interdependence of humanity and the rest of the world. The cultivation of virtue and networks of mutual aid will be the foundations of a thriving and living philosophy. In previous collapses of civilization, a system of monasteries were established as cells to preserve the tradition and offer mutual support and assistance to one another. It is possible Crowley’s idea of Profess Houses in OTO had this in mind: clusters of small communities bound together by Thelema who could survive a crumbling society. They certainly weren’t meant to be AirBnB’s you visit to watch some powerpoint lectures on egyptology or have a spa day.
Right now, spiritual experience is a commodity. It is yet another thing twisted by modern consumerism into something that is done for fun, as an aesthetic ornament to your identity. There is no use for it except to “have a good time”; again, evidence of privilege that one has no greater concerns than getting high. In apocalyptic Thelema, spiritual experience must be framed as a benefit insofar as it helps people accomplish these goals of developing relevant virtues and mutual aid networks. Becoming a Master of the Temple means nothing unless it gives you the stoic peace needed to endure the travails of an apocalyptic world. Commanding the legions of demons and spirits means nothing if it does not aid you in acquiring food and shelter for your community.
The entire edifice of modern Thelema bears no resemblance to this. All the questions that people repeat so often and mean so much to everyone become so obviously meaningless in this context: “can I call myself a Thelemite?” “Can I be a witch and a buddhist and a Thelemite?” “how do I cast this spell?” “what are the correct qabalistic and tarot attributions for a scrying of the 23rd key?” “What is the correct way to lift the Lance in the Mass?”… We might as well be debating baseball statistics. That is not a true philosophy anyhow, that is simply a hobby.
Building for a Future
I imagine many of you may find me alarmist. We’ve heard about the end of the world every generation since the beginning of time. Of course I do not know the future, and I don’t believe humanity will be entirely obliterated regardless. What seems certain is that the relatively stable world-order that has existed for the last few decades is showing major fraying, and things appear ready to unravel in major ways. Should these further upheavals come and grow in intensity, perhaps some of you will join me in building a Thelema that will last through the trial by fire. Let us cultivate real virtues of strength and mastery in ourselves, and begin to plant the seeds of communities that can support one another. Let an apocalyptic Thelema develop, a Child nurtured and raised on its proper environment, growing to be girded for battle. Let it bring us strength, health, and length of days so that we may accomplish our True Wills.
Love is the law, love under will.
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