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Large, Strong & Diverse: Why Culture is Key

Large, Strong & Diverse: Why Culture is Key

By Frater Entelecheia

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

There is a fundamental force that operates throughout all organizations. It is the law of our stability and growth, and failure to fully grasp its operation keeps O.T.O. bodies small and homogeneous. But understanding the operation of this force should lead to large, strong, diverse O.T.O. bodies.

By large I mean “over 100 people”. All O.T.O. bodies are currently small.

By strong I mean a body with low turnover, capable of a wide scope of activities in and outside the temple, and with recognition and visibility in the non-Order, non-Thelemic, non-occult community.

By diverse I mean united by shared Thelemic beliefs without regard for race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, socio-economic status, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, or age.

This fundamental force is felt most strongly in the “Core” of the organization, i.e., among the individuals who support the organization not only through regular payment of dues but also through regular work. But because the Core is oriented toward work, and because so much attention is given in the Core to doing the work well, the operation of the fundamental force tends to be obscured. But if we can gain insight into the operation of the fundamental force, and if we can learn to master it, we should be able to increase the size, strength, and diversity of our local bodies.

I believe the fundamental force is trust. I believe trust is earned when we prove through our actions that we share beliefs with one another. I believe people join our organization when it is clear enough to them, looking from the outside-in, that the people already there believe what they believe. I think they tend to stay in the Order if it demonstrates consistently through its actions that it truly believes the things it says it believes.

The actions any organization typically takes define its culture. It’s the primary means by which we communicate value inside the organization. Therefore the key to the growth, stability, and diversity of the Order is to acquire the discipline to demonstrate what we believe in everything we say and everything we do. Culture is key to our growth.

The Nature of Trust

Trust is like gravity. Its effect is experienced most strongly in close proximity. Each individual in the Core of an O.T.O. body places a large amount of trust in the organization. It’s why they commit so much time and energy to the work. It’s why they choose to fly blind as candidates into initiations.

And like gravity, the effect of trust can be felt over long distances. Two individuals who are united neither by the work, friends, subcultures, personal history, race, ethnicity, age, nor ability will still support an O.T.O. body through dues and attendance. All they have in common is their belief that the local body in question is truly committed to what they themselves believe. This is why trust is able to hold a large organization together where not everyone knows or is friends with or is exactly like everyone else.

Trust is capable of pulling in new people. If a person looking in from the outside is able to see that the local body believes what they believe, they are more likely to trust them enough to join.

But because of the immaterial nature of belief, beliefs must be continually demonstrated, and therefore trust is easy to damage or destroy.

Despite how fundamental trust is to the growth and maintenance of an organization, we tend to overlook its importance in favor of something else, usually work or the product of work. I believe we make this fundamental mistake because of our current and past experiences in the Order.

Lifecycle of an O.T.O. Body

Stage One: Simple Core

All O.T.O. bodies are small, but those starting out are very small. They have less than 15 members. In such bodies, everyone must do all the work all the time. Member identity is formed and maintained around doing work. Furthermore, when a body is that small, people are joined, not only by their belief in our core values, but primarily by personal affinity. Everyone knows or is even friends with everyone else. The body not only lacks diversity; it can easily be destroyed by interpersonal conflict.

Stage Two: Initial Differentiation

Yet when such a body takes an interest in growing, the group has to be held together by more than personal friendships. It has to become more about the core Thelemic principles and the beliefs of the Order than what kind of music people like or who is dating who. Individuals who were only part of the group because they had a personal relationship with someone might begin to feel alienated and leave. This tension between personal motives and more abstract Thelemic motives will cause a body to grow and shrink again around 15-25 members.



Stage Three: Stable Core & Periphery

Yet if the body persists in its commitment to the Order’s values, it will continue to grow and form a more diverse Periphery. The Periphery consists in members who support the organization through dues and attendance. They support the work, but they do not themselves primarily do the work. They are the ones most obviously held in place by trust. But the trust is not the sort of trust that two friends have for one another. What they trust is that those doing the work believe the same things they believe. They come to believe this, in part, because they see the members of the Core sacrificing themselves for their beliefs.

At this stage of development of a local body, the main problem is not the work. The body would never have gotten this big if it did not have competent ritualists, initiators, and officers. The fundamental problem facing a body this size and composition – about 40 members where about 15 make up the Core and 25 make up the Periphery – is a communication problem. How does the Core communicate to the Periphery and beyond that it really believes what it says it believes? How does it establish and maintain trust with its members and people it’s encountering for the first time?

Our Culture Communicates Our Beliefs

The problem has to be addressed at three different levels. These ideas are from an excellent book, Start with Why, by Simon Sinek.

First, the Core must learn to articulate what they believe. They must discover and put into words why they do what they do. This is done by looking to the past.

  • How did I fall in love with the Order?
  • What did it believe that I believed?
  • What is the Higher Cause I’m willing to self-sacrifice for?
  • What are the core motivations operating in the Order?
  • Why was the organization founded in the first place?

All of this has to be put into words and made clear. This is the most important step, but it’s also the easiest for those who are the most committed.

We’ve already begun this part of the process at Horizon Lodge in Seattle, Washington. On September 23, 2017 e.v., I led The Horizon Working, a four-hour ritual/workshop in which I presented these ideas and then led the group through exercises designed to explore our Higher Cause through the lens of personal experience. The members found this to be a valuable experience, and I am using their feedback to refine the process in the hopes of bringing it to other O.T.O. bodies on the West Coast.

The second step is to look at the organization’s culture.

  • What do we do that proves our commitment to these core beliefs?
  • What do we do that disproves or sends a mixed signal about our commitment?
  • Is every new member made aware of Path of Mediation, and do they use it every single time there’s a problem?
  • How do we reward people who prove their commitment to our values? Do we do it every time, or are we taking some people for granted?
  • How do we deal with individuals whose actions contradict our beliefs and values? Do we tell someone their actions are problematic, or do we allow “the Order to sort it out”?
  • What do we we do when we see people violating their oaths? Are sponsors helping acculturate people to our values?

This is the most difficult part. It requires a cold, hard look. It requires strong commitment from leadership. And it’s something that requires daily discipline and maintenance. You don’t just do it once. It requires educating everyone who becomes a member so they understand what we value as an organization. It involves going through and evaluating nearly everything we do. It takes a lot of honesty and discipline. But it’s made easier by doing the first step and acquiring clarity about what the organization truly believes.

Finally you look at the product of your work. This includes our rituals, initiations, and events, but it also includes posters, flyers, social media, and any conversation you have with a person encountering the Order for the first time. This level is important, because what we bring to people is a symbol of what we believe. It’s how they infer what we’re truly about. The challenge here is to make our work product consistently embody and reflect our values. This is how we prove our authenticity.

The Power of Our Beliefs

Our Thelemic beliefs are the most important thing about us. They and they alone are capable of uniting individuals from diverse backgrounds for the attainment of a common end. Most of us joined the Order because the Order signaled to us in some way that it held these particular beliefs, and so we decided to trust the Order enough to go to an event or to take an initiation. Our Thelemic beliefs are what we self-sacrifice for. They are our Higher Cause.

But beliefs are invisible. I have no way of directly knowing what you believe. The only way I can figure out what you believe is through what you do or the product of what you do. This is why the discipline of our O.T.O. local body culture is so important. It is the principal way we communicate our commitment to our Higher Cause and establish trust with our members and with new people.

I believe the key to growing large, strong, diverse local bodies is to communicate our commitment to this Higher Cause throughout the Order and beyond its borders. This is best achieved by acquiring clear understanding of what that cause is on a personal and collective level, by proving our commitment to that cause in everything we say and do as an organization, and by consistently delivering quality work that makes manifest those values. In this way I believe we can build a stronger Thelemic culture in our local bodies and establish trust with a wider section of the population who will love the Order as much as we already do and for many of the reasons we already do.

Love is the law, love under will.

Frater Entelecheia is a member of Horizon Lodge Ordo Templi Orientis in Seattle, Washington, where he currently serves as Treasurer. He has been an Order member for three years.

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