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Fighting Sexism in Thelemic Communities

Fighting Sexism in Thelemic Communities By Frater Enatheleme

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

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20 thoughts on “Fighting Sexism in Thelemic Communities

  1. I’m not sure if it would be helpful or not, but was thinking maybe a few women only meetings where issues or concerns could be addressed and talked about freely without men being around.
    Maybe after such meetings men and women could meet together to talk.
    Maybe I’m all wrong, just a thought 🤔

    1. Yes that’s exactly what I had in mind on that third bullet-point. When I was a Thelemic community leader, we implemented such meetings and they were a great success. They did occasionally have some problems, when those running the meetings would begin to use them to push gender conformity. A mission-statement and agenda for the meetings to avoid this issue might be a good idea.

  2. The specific issues I encountered as a woman included having to report sexist and abusive behaviours by a man in authority to another sexist and man in authority who was a close friend and had political reasons to hide issues, and having no one else to officially br able to direct issues to that were not directly under their control, having requests for a system of mediation and independent clear system to address issues flatly shot down as a threat to the growth of the order, having requests to avoid creepy men by requesting access to a female Bishop for training in the Mass or changing of camp both refused and presented to locals as a threat to the order, and being banned from speaking to other groups and even other locations unless through said man in charge- which was always refused or heavily controlled in content. Having my attempts and those of other women to visit other bodies and speak to other groups to train, participate and be initiated be blocked by the man in charge under false pretence up to and including fake inferences of bad report where there were none, and having honest communication with other bodies be presented to the local bodies as against code and again a threat to the order, when blocking our way was in fact the act against regulation. Having genuinely experienced women who were perceived as a threat to power of the local man blocked from hosting the Mass with their own full hall and equipment when there were no female members and no local temple and instead being asked to search for young sex workers who were “easier to mold and did not question” and practice in my apartment. Having women of colour or overweight women blocked from training as Priestess. Having women and men who objected to sexism soft ejected from the order by non official means them officially claiming a lack of commitment. Having the man in authority I found inappropriately controlling and abusive be in charge of any discussion regarding issues and have direct control over any participating members and records of said discussions that were shared to the International Council. Having abusive men in charge given multiple hats, such as Bodymaster, Priest, stand in Bishop, Secretary, and stand in FSR so he only need refer to his own self for any concerns and so paperwork and information about practices, attendance, participation, and also even signed initiation papers could be withheld, change, vanish, or be given outside of due process depending on obedience to the various controlling things I have listed. Being asked to perform as Priestess while having Baptism, initiation and training outside of mass withheld pending obedience in other inappropriately unrelated matters. Being disciplined for visiting other bodies. Being written as insubordinate and a ‘threat to the order’ up for reading and discussing relevant books, studying Mass without his direct presence and permission, offering classes, speaking to or being seen with members the man in charge did not like personally and studying with other groups. Most especially, being viewed as problematic for being independent and strong enough to complain, having any male or female who do threatened with suspension, stagnation or expulsion for calling out issues, having any and all witnesses threatened with the same to create an institutional silence against abuse, and finally, of course, having women who dare report issues be expelled without cause because, as I was told, ‘if nobody is officially recorded complaining, there are no complainants, and therefore we do not have a problem’.

    1. Thank you for this. I don’t know how to respond, but thank you. I’m so sorry that you experienced this.

      1. Sister Minerva, if you haven’t already, check out #respectthenoinoto. Women are speaking out about our experiences and banding together. If you are in the OTO, you can contact the ombudsman-f @ – Shellay Maughan, who will listen to you and advise you personally. We’re working on getting a sense of how often and where this happens. Also on getting women out from under this situation and into the space where we can work on our own development.

    2. WOW, that’s one horrible experience you describe.
      I can only hope that your personal experience is not the norm for females.
      Thelema needs strong men and women working together side by side.

  3. Not that my opinion matters much. But first I wanted to say that I think the meetings you describe would be a good thing. I felt compelled to comment that having “women only” meetings would seem to be counter productive to the fight vs sexism. With that being said, I also understand the issue some may have with speaking up otherwise. So having an option to have a private outlet for those afraid to speak up with certain people present. But I also think that the accused should be able to face the accuser. It’s a tough scenario described in the comments here.

    I am not affiliated with any organizations but I do Identify with Thelema and follow this blog regularly. Thanks for the work you guys do here.

    1. Having women-only meetings is not counter-productive to fighting sexism. On the contrary, it makes it possible for women to approach the Thelemic community without having to be focused on how they are treated by men, and facilitates the formation of friendships between women.

    1. Thanks for posting that link!

      I think Thelema is inherently feminist in the sense that it asserts the essential equality of every man and woman. Because of that, I always bristled at the title of your piece, since to me it suggests that Thelema should be augmented with feminism, but I believe Thelema is already feminist to its core.

      Moreover I think many aspects of feminist theory would be improved by Thelemic metaphysics, in which every man and every woman is a star, a solar-phallos, at the center of their particular universe; a Hadit surrounded by Nuit. Thus in my view, it may be helpful to consider a “Thelemic Feminism,” rather than a “Feminist Thelema.”

      But what you are doing, and have been doing, to raise awareness of feminist ideas within the Thelemic community, is all terrific and I don’t want to take away from that with my pedantic pontifications.

  4. This isn’t my path, I’m a different flavor of pagan. That said, I want to openly commend you on expressing this and doing this work. Seeing this sort of reflection tells me that all is not lost in the world, and that there can be an end to rape culture. I have very much enjoyed reading this blog, and I admit it’s sparked an interest in learning more. 😀

    1. This post isn’t about OTO, nor does it call for a response from OTO. I’m unclear why there should be any official statement from them about it. It would be a good idea for any local OTO communities to implement the suggestions in this post but I see no need for them to respond directly.

  5. Oh OK, was just curious. Just seems like a very serious matter that needs addressing by a number of individuals.

    1. I think that there are a number of things around this issue that deserve to be addressed. Particularly the stories of abuse shared by the commentator above and the recent posts by Sr. Georgia. I don’t know of any official response to those.

      This post is more a discussion of strategies that people can use to fight sexism in their local communities of Thelemites.

  6. Bravo je suis fier de vous we must start this idea and developpe every man and every woman is a Star so the women must be participe in Thelma

  7. As a non binary person coming back into thelemic communities is confusing. All learning is gendered.
    What path do I walk my bio or a new way to study ?

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