By Frater Enatheleme
At a time when civilization worldwide struggles to break the chains of patriarchy and outright oppression of women, our Thelemic communities are no exception. While debates over the question of Crowley’s personal sexism may last decades, it is easy to observe that many localized groups of Thelemites are principally composed of men; that group ritual performances tend to be dominated by male ritualists; that online campaigns to promote sex-equality are often met with resistance and complacency; that women continue to regularly report experiences of harassment and coercion.
As Thelemites, it is our duty to build associations wherein every man and every woman can find expression and manifestation of their individual wills.
As leaders and members of our community, there are practical steps we can take to fight these tendencies and add momentum to the ongoing efforts to emancipate each individual star. What follows is an incomplete list of policies and programs that have been developed in localities where Thelemites have found some success in crafting a sexually egalitarian culture, in the hope that readers may be inspired to implement similar strategies.
Please feel free to add to this list by commenting below with your own ideas or observations.
- Provide education in sexual ethics and related matters through classes, workshops, conference presentations, and woman-centered symposia. Ensure that those leading these events are not, themselves, predatory men.
- Host regular frank and public discussions on gender, sexuality, and feminism and how these subjects are addressed in Thelema. Topic areas can cover the whole spectrum of these subjects, including sex magick, gender roles in ritual, sexual anatomy, sexual politics, ethics, power dynamics, etc.
- Host a regular event that is open to the public who identify as women, providing a time and place for women to discuss issues of gender and sexuality in Thelema, and any other matters that are of interest, from a woman’s perspective.
- Regularly bring presenters from outside the local area who are leading feminist voices in the worldwide Thelemic community.
- Ensure that women are given plenty of opportunities to serve in public rituals. Avoid the tendency to have the only woman in the Gnostic Mass be the priestess. Consider that any ritual with five or more ritualists should have at least two women participating.
- In any Thelemic community, women should hold positions of authority and responsibility. If they do not, the community will be rightly perceived as harboring sexism. Consider also that such positions should not simply be a reification of traditional gender roles; e.g., men as “treasurers” vs. women as “secretaries” and “feast goddesses.”
- Facilitate regular readings and discussions of Crowley’s writings, and demonstrate that while Crowley said sexist things, he also strenuously asserted the essential equality of women, and he made it clear that sexism, racism, and any class prejudice is antithetical to Thelema.
- Encourage the members of your Thelemic community to compose and perform original rituals, and publish the writings of members in a periodical journal, while specifically soliciting rituals and essays that break traditional molds of gender and sexuality.
- Ensure that the library of your Thelemic community contains titles pertaining to feminism, sexuality, and gender politics.
- Devote some time each year to holding classes and discussions on the subject of domestic abuse.
- Promulgate the non-sexist doctrines of Thelema, which is particularly well-expressed in the following quotations, among many others from Aleister Crowley:
“The soul is beyond male and female as it is beyond Life and Death. Even as the Lingam and the Yoni are but diverse developments of One Organ, so also are Life and Death but two phases of One State. So also the Absolute and the Conditioned are but forms of THAT.” —The Book of Lies, ch. 35
“The male must have completed himself and become androgyne; the female, and become gynander. This incompleteness imprisons the soul. To think ‘I am not woman, but man’ or vice versa, is to limit one’s self, to set a bar to one’s motion. It is the root of the ‘shutting-up’ which culminates in become ‘Mary inviolate’ or a ‘Black Brother.’” —Commentary on Liber LXV, V:44
“The essence of a Man and Woman—each being a Star or sovereign God poised in Space by its own act—is clothed in thoughts and deeds as is its Nature, hidden by them.” —The Comment Called D