by Brother Sol-Om-On
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
For, in True Things, all are but images one of another; man is but a map of the universe, and Society is but the same on a larger scale.Aleister Crowley, Liber CXCIV
The world is in turmoil. Political upheaval continually rends our communities apart, globally and locally. Our closely held norms seem left behind, smashed outright by the blatant injustices in the world or simply found to be out of place, not fit to adapt to the fast-paced chaos that is our modern daily world.
As the global community in microcosm, our own Thelemic community has long been under the pernicious sway of neoliberal assumptions. The influence has grown exponentially since approximately when Aleister Crowley died, the end of the second world war and the formation of the current liberal world over. These assumptions have gone unchecked, grown and multiplied, so that many do not even notice they are there, in the background, shaping their paradigm. The typical Thelemite’s views are so well-shaped by these assumptions that to question them sounds blasphemous, as strange as the concept might be in a Thelemic context. But our Thelemic ethics have been corrupted, our interpretation of texts has been twisted, and our politics have been confused as a result of these unquestioned assumptions.
Fortunately or unfortunately, it seems the traditional unquestioned liberal world order is being challenged. Many cracks have appeared in these moral and political assumptions, for better and for worse. And, like Tum in his Setting, the red rays of sunset herald the end of liberal Thelema.
The End of Liberal Social Values as the Pinnacle of Thelemic Ethics
The first pillar in the temple of Holy Thelemic Sanctity is that Thelemic ethics is seen as basically progressive, liberal social values. Accepting LGBTQ people is generally used as the prime example. Or, for example, the head of OTO in USA once proclaimed “Opposing racial and sexual prejudice is a Thelemic value”. It sounds nice but is it true?
Thelemites need to realize that none of this is really relevant to Thelema and its ethic. There are some hard truths that people have to swallow if they want to understand values in terms of Thelema, rather than retroactively interpreting Thelema in terms of their pre-existing liberal values. If we refer to Liber OZ, we see two important things:
“Man has the right to think what he will:
to speak what he will”Liber OZ
The Thelemic ethic is Do what thou wilt, which means that each person has the right to think or say whatever they will. The hard truth is that this could very well include what people consider “racial prejudice” or “sexual prejudice”. It could include whatever someone wills, really, and that’s the whole idea. There is no law in Thelema that says “you can Do what thou wilt, but you can’t say mean things to gay people.” It might make you seem like an asshole, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t doing your True Will or you’re not a Thelemite.
The hard truth is that people can say or think what they will, and that might include things you don’t like. It might include things that are objectively offensive. The Book of the Law does not to my knowledge contain any exceptions to the rule that says “Strike hard & low… but be mindful to not offend others”. That doesn’t mean being a rude or mean person should be part of everyone’s true will, but it could very well be part of someone else’s Will. Yes, the Book of the Law says “Love is the law” but it also says:
If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him. Therefore strike hard & low, and to hell with them, master! […]
Them that seek to entrap thee, to overthrow thee, them attack without pity or quarter; & destroy them utterly. Swift as a trodden serpent turn and strike! Be thou yet deadlier than he! Drag down their souls to awful torment: laugh at their fear: spit upon them! […]
Mercy let be off: damn them who pity! Kill and torture; spare not; be upon them!Liber AL vel Legis, The Book of the Law
Now, I want to be clear that it is of course right for people to fight for social justice as they see fit. But it does not mean that anyone must agree with you. Consider this: A Thelemite who believes there are only two genders may very well be doing his True Will. A Thelemite who believes that immigrants should not be accepted into their homeland could be doing their True Will. A Thelemite who believes that heterosexuality is normal and all other orientations are aberrations, and they could in theory still be doing their True Will. Even if you believe these things are wrong (morally or factually), is it impossible for someone to do their True Will if they believe anything that is at all false? Doesn’t the Master Therion teach that all thought is on some level false?
It’s time we stop measuring our beliefs and conduct against the golden calf of liberal social values. However much you disagree with a person, each person has the right to say and think what they will. They are not bound to what culture currently deems socially acceptable. Isn’t being free of that socially imposed constraint the whole point of “Do what thou wilt” in the first place?
The End of Post-Modern Indecisiveness as the Thelemic Hermeneutic
Along with the rise of the liberal paradigm encompassing the background of everyone’s minds, there has come an increase in the post-modern interpretation of texts. The Death of the Author, as they say. Everyone’s truth is equal, in this view.
Obviously each person has their own truth, their own True Will. But on the intellectual plane, when we are speaking about the tradition of Thelema as established by Aleister Crowley — and especially if we are speaking about the tradition of a specific organization such as Ordo Templi Orientis — then we must know that there was a specific intent laid for us. Each of us has our own path, but we must agree on the basics. We must agree that “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and we must agree on essentially a common enough definition that we know what we are talking about. If it means anything you want it to mean, it becomes meaningless. There is no possibility of communication, let alone of establishing Tradition.
In the OTO, it is common for people to go through these very traditional initiations of the M∴M∴M∴ and then be told by their initiator that, basically, it’s up to them in the end to interpret the Mysteries. The fear of stepping on anyone’s toes, of anyone saying anything too “authoritative”, has taken the place of bold minds establishing a vibrant Tradition. A real, live tradition would have the establishment of First Principles, their senior members would then write and debate and infuse the current with new and living fire. But instead we often have the halting mediocrity of stilted and haphazard oral collection of pseudo-traditions. People are largely told to go read some books in a list that have questionable relevance to the Mystery of the degree, as if to imitate the worst aspects of dying Masonry without the meat of Tradition.
We have to assert: These rituals mean something. These texts mean something. They don’t mean whatever you want them to mean. Not just OTO’s but all Thelemic texts and ritauls as handed down to us by the Beast. They were not simply Rorschach’s to project your insecurities and the same tired analysis onto. They were given to impart specific lessons, in specific ways, at specific times. Thelemic rituals are encoded messages, ritualized alchemy, and not a series of meaningless smokey images cast before your eyes so you can see the clouds of your own pre-existing views. It is time we do our research and establish First Principles, and pave a way for a true Thelemic Tradition to begin to be established. Otherwise, we will lose Thelema to something more resembling a formless and toothless secular humanism with some rituals thrown in to spice things up. Thelema is its own tradition — a distinct, identifiable, unique tradition — and it is up to us as the heirs of the Beast to identify and communicate this tradition from generation unto generation.
The End of Democracy as the Pinnacle of Thelemic Politics
Everyone is equal, cries the cant of democracy. If Crowley’s own varied admonitions against democracy were not enough, we could certainly see the rotten fruit of its adoption in modern Thelemic organizations.
People are all different, and therefore are not equal. They have different circumstances, different abilities, different desires, different weaknesses, and different potential. Everyone has a different point-of-view in the body of Nuit, and while we are “equal” in being points-of-view, everything else about us is different from one another. Our Wills are unique. This is reflected in the hierarchical structure of Thelemic organizations. They are hierarchies, not democracies. The Man of Earth of OTO is not meant to set policy for the Order. The Hermits are meant to do that. The Hermits theoretically have more knowledge and initiatory experience to guide the Order in a direction in accordance with Its Will. The Order is top-down and meant to be that way. No matter how much people want this not to be true, it doesn’t matter because it will always be true, at least for OTO. No matter how loud the outcry of the Men of Earth, or the public, it should not matter, because they simply are not in a place to be dictating the direction of the organization.
This is the problem of democracy: it is enslavement to the horde, to the masses. Any demagogue, whether “right wing” or “left wing”, can whip people up into a frenzy of outrage. Any outspoken person or group of people can use their resources and propaganda to sway others to their point of view. Thelema is not about convincing everyone of your point of view. Nor is Thelema about listening to “the majority”. The majority of people are stupid. The average voter is an idiot, as Crowley said. As Saint George Carlin said “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” We have to admit that Thelema has absolutely nothing to do with this. Thelema is about finding your own individual Will. Is it not said:
Ye are against the people, O my chosen!Liber AL vel Legis, The Book of the Law
Thelema is a law of the strong. Though the Law may apply to all people, it is not equally understood or put into practice by all. Some will succeed and will attain. Others will fail, or fail to even try. Thelema is the smart slap to the face of reality and its consequences. Each will rise and fall by their own measure, as shown by their fruits. Thelema never encourages us to give participation trophies, or pretend that everyone is equally good at everything, or that everyone will agree or get along. The truth of Thelema is the truth of nature:
Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world.Liber AL vel Legis, The Book of the Law
When we come to realize these once unassailable edifices are crumbling, we will come to terms with our New Reality. We can return to the truth of Thelema, and interpret the world in terms of its Law, rather than interpreting Thelema in terms of our pre-conceived liberal values. Though the crumbling brings chaos, we can let this formless abyss be the source of a new star within us. We can see the new dawn of the rising of the Aeon of the Child, still beaming his force and fire upon us, preparing us for the Way of Justice ahead.
Remember: There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.
Love is the law, love under will.
Enjoying the articles? Support the Thelemic Union and help us keep our site running, ad-free, and hacker-free by pledging $1+ on Patreon:
Thelemic Union is open to all articles that are relevant to Thelema in some way. Send your submissions to thelemic[dot]union[at]gmail[dot]com