Recent debates about racism and sexual harassment have sparked a lot of conflict in the OTO and in occult circles in general. One trend that has been emerging lately is a far-right element in society in general, and occult circles in the microcosm, of more vocally defending neo-Nazis (as at Charlottesville), more vocally denigrating and dehumanizing immigrants and LBGTQ individuals (including members of their own communities), and generally being more willing to be public with attacks against those who dare question them.
Inevitably, the far-right emphasizes “free speech” for spreading their hateful ideologies while simultaneously decrying any kind of criticism as “censorship,” as if the criticism does not have the same benefit of free speech. Of course, they are free to defend neo-Nazis rallying who cry “Jews will not replace us” but we are not allowed to point out how they are engaging in apologetics for Nazism.
Karl Popper identified what is known as “the paradox of intolerance” which states, in short, that a tolerant society will eventually be subverted by its intolerant/hateful elements if they are not kept in check. In other words, for a tolerant society to propagate, one must be intolerant of intolerance.
The intolerant always prey on the liberties afforded by an open society, such as free speech, while not actually believing in the fundamental tenets they disingenuously use to promote their arguments. Their equation of criticism with censorship is one obvious sign of this disingenuous approach.
It should be remarked that Aleister Crowley himself essentially wrote about this same paradox several decades before Popper. He wrote:
“Every Star has its own Nature, which is ‘Right’ for it. We are not to be missionaries, with ideal standards of dress and morals, and such hard-ideas. We are to do what we will, and leave others to do what they will. We are infinitely tolerant, save of intolerance…”
“Intolerance is evidence of impotence.”
Crowley seemed to realize that, in general, we are to mind our own business and leave others to mind theirs. However, there are certain intolerant groups and elements of society that actively seek to oppress others. This is notably shown in OTO’s own program synopsis as being in “opposition to tyranny, superstition, and oppression.” One cannot simply promote one’s own freedom without regard to the external world, one must also seek to destroy those barriers to freedom in groups, ideologies, and individuals that promote tyranny, superstition, and oppression.
In the end, the OTO has to decide what it stands for: Does it stand for absolute free speech and tolerance of even the most extreme ideologies? Does it take the radical stance that “Do what thou wilt” means literally any ideology is acceptable? Or does it remain in line with its Prophet who held the policy of “infinite tolerance, save of intolerance”? The truth is that OTO has already taken a stand against the former and for the latter; in other words, they have explicitly stated they are against extreme, intolerant ideologies such as hate groups:
In August 2017 after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville (and subsequent defense thereof by some prominent members on the fringe-right), OTO USGL issued a statement from the Supreme Grand Council which includes a specific condemnation of ideologies of racial superiority. They wrote in their statement:
“Therefore, the U.S. Grand Lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis hereby formally and unequivocally rejects all such ideas. O.T.O. draws strength from diversity; we welcome the participation and friendship of Thelemites of all sexes, genders, “races,” and ethnic groups, and from all cultures; and we are committed to opposing their unfair treatment, within and without the Order. We further remain committed to opposing ideas and doctrines–whether religious, political, philosophical, or pseudo-scientific–that tend toward the enslavement of the human spirit, which indwells “every man, every woman, and every intermediately-sexed individual.”
In January 2018, United States Grand Lodge OTO formally amended their vision and values statements. In particular their updated values statement reads:
We believe that a membership free from unfair discrimination is essential to accomplishing our Mission, and reject doctrines that promote bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance.
These beliefs are drawn and deduced from the deepest teachings and lessons of the Order, as issued by the Supreme Grand Council: We can infer clearly that any ideology that promotes bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance is antithetical to the mission of OTO. We may now turn to Trump and his supporters:
Trump is unambiguously a racist. At this point, everyone either already knows this or stubbornly refuses to admit it. Aside from the evidence that he has repeatedly used the N-word, Trump has very publicly engaged in racist rhetoric as well as enacted racist policies. There are innumerable examples, including that Trump was the primary promoter of the racist “birther” theory about Obama, he announced his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans murderers and rapists, said a Mexican judge cannot judge him because of his race, his and his fellow Republicans’ constant courting of white nationalists, and built his campaign on fear-mongering about Muslims while promising an illegal “Muslim ban” among many other examples of him generally normalizing racism. Anti-semitic attacks are at their highest levels in two decades; anti-Muslim groups have tripled since Trump launched his campaign and there have been more racist attacks against Muslims than after 9/11; he has systematically discriminated against LGBTQ individuals while in office. In fact it has gotten to the point that they are literally separating children from their parents for a misdemeanor and throwing the children in literal cages. I think it is not a stretch to call these actions tyranny and oppression.
Now I already hear the retort: “not every Trump supporter necessarily agrees with his overt racism and general bigotry!” and I wholeheartedly express my support for your right to freely express your views; you have the right to free expression. However, I do not believe it matters why you rationalize your support for Trump. It does not matter how many “conservative” beliefs you hold if you support Trump. Regardless of why you support Trump, you are supporting someone who has been explicitly anti-POC, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and has very clearly stoked the flames of hatred against many types of diverse individuals. In other words: People who support Trump de facto support the tyranny and oppression of racist, enacts racist policies, anti-LGBTQ policies, anti-immigrant policies, and support white nationalists. At the very least, they look the other way and do nothing while these things happen. At the worst, they actively encourage these policies and behaviors. This is not some ideology one picks or chooses that has no consequences such as whether one prefers Coke or Pepsi, or boxers or briefs, which people can and should choose as they Will. This is about an ideology fundamentally based around intolerance: bigotry, hatred, and oppression of others — and therefore represents a threat to any society or organization based in tolerance.
I would argue that Trump supporters then need to make a hard choice. They need to decide between their allegiance to Trump and their allegiance to OTO. If you are in USGL OTO, I do not believe you can simultaneously support Trump and his bigoted rhetoric & policies while also supporting the USGL policies of “reject[ing] doctrines that promote bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance”. I do not believe you can support Trump and his constant attacks on diverse groups of people while also holding that “O.T.O. draws strength from diversity”.
In fact, I suspect that many of these Trump supporters do not believe in the OTO USGL vision and values statements mentioned above, silently loathe these ideas (or sometimes not-so-silently on social media), and likely hope to one day get rid of them. Either that or they live in constant cognitive dissonance that must be difficult to bear. In the mean time, I recommend those who see OTO members supporting Trump’s bigotry online to push back against them and make them pay a social price for their hatred (it works!): to call out their bigotry, remind them that their words are directly antithetical to the values of OTO and the spirit of Thelema, and that their intolerance will not be tolerated.
Addendum: It should be noted that while US Grand Lodge is virtually always at the forefront of OTO and constitutes approximately half of all international OTO members, USGL is the only Grand Lodge to issue such statements from the Supreme Grand Council or issued any alteration to their vision/values statements. No other Grand Lodge nor International Head Quarters has issued any similar pronouncements. Hopefully they will follow suit in letter if not in spirit in the fight against superstition, tyranny, and oppression. The threat of far-right ideologies of bigoted intolerance and hyper-nationalism is not unique to the United States, as seen recently in Brexit and the rise of far-right parties in Poland, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe recently.
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