Upon reading “Our Sacred Duty: On The Accommodation Of Families And Inclusion Of Children In The O.T.O.“, I was surprised to learn that there are bodies that are not universally (with the obvious exception of initiations) family-friendly. It would strike me as counter-productive to any goals of growth to not have all public events (and many private events) be so by default.
Behavior around Children at Events
While I am in agreement that bodies should work harder to be “family-friendly”, I see no reason why aspects of that should be limited to certain events only. A body where adults behave with maturity and children are encouraged to demonstrate their progress in learning how to do the same, will be by definition ‘family-friendly’ and will require no additional adaptations on the part of any bodymasters.
Good behavior must be expected of any Thelemite, regardless of whether or not there are children present. Many adults would also prefer to be in the company of well-behaved adults, and not those who are incapable of acting in a “developmentally appropriate manner”. Having more lax behavior standards is not only off-putting to those with children, it is off-putting to many mature adults who have long since outgrown the partying days of their youth.
Crowley himself expected that “every Brother shall seek constantly to give pleasure to all Brethren with whom he is acquainted, whether by entertainment or conversation, or in any other manner that may suggest itself” in Liber 101 – we can easily infer from this that we should be acting in a manner that would be hospitable to as many people as possible, particularly those we wish to attract into our Order. Few people will be put off by friendly and polite interactions – such actions are welcoming and encourage others to return.
Reasonable Accommodations for Children
Where Frater Parrhesia and I may disagree, however, is in what constitutes a reasonable accommodation. I agree that it is best not to smoke in front of children, mostly because it is best not to smoke in front of anybody, at least not without their permission. We know what dangers secondhand smoke can cause, even out of doors – and surely no one would disrespect their body’s space by smoking indoors, I would hope! With regards to swearing, I’m afraid I have some bad news – your children have probably already been exposed to it at school. Rather than asking other adults to mind their language around children, take the opportunity to explain to your kids about how certain words might not be appropriate in certain contexts.
Which is not to say that speech always needs to be a free-for-all. Just as many parents don’t want their children exposed to certain things, many adults don’t particularly care to hear the graphic details of your Tinder date’s skills (or shortcomings, as it were), for instance. Have some awareness of your surroundings and if you need to dish about your date’s penis to a friend or two, get out of earshot from the rest of the crowd. Likewise, certain other activity (sex/provocative displays of affection, illicit drug use, drinking to the point of severe intoxication) has no place at any OTO body. While Liber 101 doesn’t explicitly say so, the fact that we are encouraged to induce “Royal personages, ministers of State,” and “high officials in the Diplomatic, Naval, Military, and Civil Services” would strongly suggest that a level of decorum is to be maintained at all times.
With regards to how to accommodate children attending events, it would seem that very few changes would really need to be made (aside from perhaps banning those who are incapable of moderating themselves and behaving with some level of basic decorum). The parents/guardians are the ones responsible for their children, and (presumably) have been continually instructing them in the home about how to behave in social situations, as their children develop. The parents would do well to be the primary contacts in advising bodies on how to keep children interested in Thelema, as there are many members who either do not have children or whose children are grown, who may have no idea what is and isn’t interesting to a child. Speaking for myself as a child, I would have been quite content with a quiet corner and a book for an evening. Other children might need more engagement.
Water Everything Down for Children?
Ultimately, there should be little need to water down anything for children. A “modest” (by this I assume he means “savage”) Mass may be necessary for legal reasons in some parts of the country, but there is no need to abbreviate the ritual or change how communion is done.
Nor should children’s “naturally disruptive” behavior be tolerated or encouraged! It is in no way unreasonable to teach children to have a quiet respect and reverence for our central ritual. The Gnostic Mass is a relatively short ritual and celebrated anywhere from about once a month to once a week, depending on the body. It is never too early to begin instilling values surrounding things like respect for others, not interrupting a ritual or performance, etc. The first step in yoga, after all, is “keep still” (Magick Without Tears, “Method of Training”). To suggest that children are “naturally disruptive” and incapable of learning to sit quietly and control their “childish outbursts” is an insult to the child – they are, in most cases, quite capable and many are often eager to show off that they can behave around the grownups.
This is not to say that one emerges from the womb capable of sitting quietly for hours on end. Patience must be demonstrated on the part of the officers and attendees, with understanding that a child may still be learning certain aspects of self-control. But a parent or guardian who demonstrates no attempt to shush the child – or worse, encourages their noise and playtime during ritual – deserves every disapproving glare they receive.
The children of today may indeed be the great Masters of tomorrow – let them learn the discipline and good habits young, that they might carry those into their adult lives.
- The Accommodation of Families and Inclusion of Children in the Broader Context of Thelema
- Our Sacred Duty: On the Accommodation of Families and Inclusion of Children in the OTO
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