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A Letter Concerning the Limits of Tolerance & Freedom of Speech in Thelema

A Letter Concerning the Limits of Tolerance & Freedom of Speech in Thelema

by Frater Parrhesia


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

“Intolerance is evidence of impotence.”

Crowley, Confessions

The Law of Liberty

This letter is a call to all Soldiers of Freedom, but primarily those who identify as Thelemites, and all those who aspire to accomplish the great work of abolishing the tyranny of superstition and oppression.

I am writing this as a timely commentary upon the current relevance of the rights proclaimed by Aleister Crowley in Liber OZ in relation to issues regarding tolerance and individual Liberty; namely, the freedom of expression, and the limits thereof. Specifically, this is a meditation upon section three of Liber OZ: “Man has the right to think what he will: to speak what he will: to write what he will.”

In this Light, I urge all free thinkers, but especially those who embrace Thelema, the Law of Liberty of “Do what thou wilt,” to think thrice before condemning a right to free speech as Utopian idealism, or ironically, as Fascist sympathy. There are a great many subtleties that go into arguments of this magnitude; thus I urge careful reflection on this topic, so as to avoid the all too common impulse towards hasty generalizations and jumping to overly simplistic conclusions to complex social and personal considerations.

I will begin by stating my position as emphatically as possible. I believe we should, as far as possible, avoid the use of legal prohibition or brute force in order to silence our opponents viewpoints. In my opinion, violence and coercion merely betray the stupidity of the aggressor, far from displaying the valor of true power. In the same vein, in Crowley’s name, let us Thelemites encourage one another to rise above the use of verbal abuse, as an attempt to intimidate those we disagree with, whether in our dealings with other Thelemites, or anyone else. I believe that such tactics are not only ineffective, but socially harmful, since they discourage the opportunity for genuine communication; while painting a bleak image of the Thelemic community, and ultimately, attracting more trolls and less magicians.

In any case, I believe such attitudes of fear and restriction are unbecoming of one who accepts the Law of Liberty proclaimed by the Book of the Law, “thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.” But of course, I recognize that I may not fully Understand the mysteries of equilibrium; there might at times be good reason to silence someone, one way or another. Still, I imagine this to be a rare circumstance, and a last resort; not the all to common plea for retaliation against another merely for insulting our fragile egos. Needless to say, I only intend to express my personal opinions here. Feel free to disagree, if it be thy will; I would love to spark up a genuine debate.

The Right to Speak

Now let me make this abundantly clear, I am by no means condoning hate speech, which I in fact despise. Please do not mistake this letter for Nazi sympathy. In my mind, there is no apology for Nazism, or any other form of bigotry, consistent with the Law of Liberty – Thelema. I am simply attempting to understand how the desire to censor the opinions of those we disagree with, could possibly fit with the Rights of OZ. After all, these are rights worth fighting for, in my (no so humble) opinion; and I believe it is my duty to speak up on their behalf, particularly for my right to speak.

It seems to me that the right to think, speak, and write as we Will, is the cornerstone of all the rights proclaimed in Liber OZ, just as freedom of press is to the Bill of Rights of the United States. It is the freedom of thought, expressed as speech and writing, which brings all other freedoms to life, for this is the means whereby all our limitations, and the assumptions upon which they are founded, may be challenged and find their natural equilibrium. It is also a prerequisite to personal and social, psychological and political, freedom; certainly, no democratic republic, worthy of the name, can exist without the right to free speech.

Of course, many claim to advocate this freedom, but are willing to draw all sorts arbitrary exceptions, that conveniently target only those one disagrees with. But if the right to free speech is to mean anything, it must apply to everyone, most of all those we disagree with the most passionately. As Chomsky puts it, “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Stalin and Hitler, for example, were dictators in favor of freedom of speech for views they liked only. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.” (Manufacturing Consent) Otherwise, what is the point of proclaiming a freedom of speech anyways, just to carry on censoring or enemies?

The Enlightenment

Of course, the idea of “free speech” has a long history, one intimately intertwined with the Enlightenment ideal of tolerance. Thus, on this topic, it seems appropriate to begin with with a few quotes from three Saints of Classical Liberalism that arose from this fertile moment in the history of philosophy. First I will invoke Voltaire, who addressed the problem of fanaticism in his Treatise on Tolerance: “A government has the right to punish men’s errors if they are crimes; they are crimes only when they disturb society; they do that when they engender fanaticism; so men must avoid fanaticism if they are to deserve tolerance.” Clearly Voltaire, the great advocate of tolerance, believed their had to be limits on what one should endure in the name of tolerating differences.

Still, even if we are inclined to agree with Voltaire here, it is by no means agreed upon, as to what amounts to fanatical. As one might imagine, such a decree may easily be interpreted to serve the interests of any would-be dictator, that wishes to suppress all opposition. Thus, it seems there must be strict limits placed upon the suppression of fanaticism, for to quote John Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration,” I believe that any “other practical opinions, though not absolutely free from all error, if they do not tend to establish domination over others… there can be no reason why they should not be tolerated.” This seems reasonable enough, but still, there is yet no consensus as to what constitutes the establishment of domination; again, this may be manipulated by a cunning politician to assert one’s own domination.

Further, it is worth considering the fact, that censorship may have other pernicious effects, aside from the treat of tyranny. As John Stuart Mill assert in his revolutionary work On Liberty: “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” Thus, one might recognize the grave danger in suppressing speech, for this, in effect, means repression of the freedom to think. Alas, enslavement of the mind, may constitute a far worse fate than slavery of the body.

The Social Value of Speech

To my understanding, the most crucial argument in favor of free-speech, next the political, is the scientific one. This means that I believe guaranteeing the right of free speech is imperative, if a society is to have any chance in combating its own ignorance. How can one hope to enlighten the ignorant, unless they be free to expose their folly? If the people are afraid to express their prejudice publicly, they are more likely to go unchallenged, and become self-assured in their assumptions. Further, the most effective method of encouraging bigots to become more self-righteous and fanatical, is to directly persecute them. Thus are madmen made into martyrs. Rather, persistence in the pursuit of reason, in the face of absurdity, will prevail in the end.

 What then, are we to do with the ignorant, or worse yet, the belligerent? Sometimes, it might be more efficient to allow these people to vent their anger verbally, rather than physically, so they may clarify the nature of their frustrations, so that society might better address the real issues that are at the root of their problems, before they get out of hand. In any case, this freedom is absolutely essential for any State which claims to be a Democratic Republic, and is certainly necessary if a government is expected to adequately represent the Will of the People; otherwise, the whole system is merely a farce (as it may well be).

Regardless, I insist that we need not allow the Orwellian “double-speak” on the Right and Left extremes of the political spectrum, to taint our understanding of profound ideas like “freedom of speech” and “individual liberty,” To the contrary, I suggest we work to put the power back into these truly progressive ideals, firmly rooted in Classical Liberalism, which I believe inherently Thelemic in spirit. 

Further, to anyone inclined to dismiss the Liberal philosophy of the Enlightenment as merely a product of the privilege of atfew old white men, I might add that without this school of thought, the U.S. would have no Constitution or Bill of Rights, much less a civil rights movement, nor is it likely that Crowley would have arrived at the sort of universal human rights proclaimed in OZ.

The Ideal of Tolerance

In essence, the problem of free speech may basically be understood as a matter of tolerance, which (as mentioned) was the classic philosophical term for the issue. The ultimate question here seems to be: are we willing to tolerate the perspectives of those who oppose us? Personally, I think this kind of toleration is necessary if wish to come to any sort of understanding with our opposition, let alone meaningful compromise or true peace. Upon careful reflection, it seems that tolerance may have many long-term benefits, that far outweigh the immediate impulse to silence our opposition.

Now to defend the virtue of tolerance, I will once again call upon Voltaire. Indeed, Voltaire makes a valid point in his Treatise on Tolerance, demonstrating the way that toleration has a pacifying effect, deescalating hostility and aggression, and encouraging resolution. Voltaire summarizes the point like this: “In short: 1. tolerance never led to civil war; 2. intolerance has covered the earth with carnage. Choose, then, between these rivals…  There’s certainly no advantage in persecuting those who don’t share our opinions, making them hate us. So there is something absurd about intolerance.” At least for one devoted to human evolution, or even personal evolution, let alone the Great Work of the Thelemite, it seems that intolerance would be readily recognized as ridiculous, if not regarded as a plague to be purged when possible.

To this end, in “The Revival of Tolerance,” Ash93 points out that “Toleration has gotten a bad reputation in the last few years,” but that “it is time to rehabilitate this lofty word, to give it its rightful respect and return it to a place of honor, a true virtue to which we should all aspire. I am inclined to agree. Further, I believe a parallel thesis might be asserted regarding the freedom of expression, for ultimately the right to free speech is simply an outward manifestation of the virtue of tolerance. Thus I argue that we must work to resurrect the ideal of free speech if we hope to rehabilitate toleration.

In this respect, I insist that commitment to tolerance and the freedom of expression is crucial for any Thelemite who’s Will it may be to work toward social progress.  As Ash93 reminds us, “Tolerance is not only a fundamental principle of O.T.O. specifically, it is equally true of Thelema in general… Tolerance is an absolute requirement within any Thelemic society because we recognize that every person has their own unique Will and path to it.” With this, I have to agree, but I will go further to insist that it not only applies within Thelemic societies, but for the general public as well. If we in fact believe in the inherent value of tolerance, it seems to me that the impulse to ensure that the basic right of free speech is guaranteed to all, will follow naturally.

Communication Between Thelemites

 Now, it should be understood, that I am advocating the ideal of “free speech” as a social norm and not merely a legal code, at least within Thelemic communities, if not other progressive movements with less self-awareness. I must say, it strikes me as odd that so many who would be appalled by any attempt of the State to force their opinions, would so readily resort to State intervention to silence their opposition. On that note, I may as well mention the absurdity of the use of verbal abuse or threats of violence, among Thelemites, to bully and coerce those who share differing viewpoints to remain silent.

Here, I am not suggesting that we do not have the right to be confrontational, just that we should try a little harder to make our conversations more conducive to open dialogue. Of course, anyone who announces their opinions in a public forum will be subject to the criticisms of their peers, if not world opinion. I would not have it any other way; this sort of confrontation is an essential element of all evolution. Still, I might expect those who claim to accept the Law of Liberty, when conversing among one another, to aspire towards the sort of scholarly disagreements one finds in the Sciences and at the Universities (at least ideally, if not in reality). Of course, the academy is full of petty personal politics, but at least here least there is a commitment to academic discourse, sorely lacking among many of those devoted to the study of Thelema (all the worse in online forums).

Unfortunately, many people can be incredibly petty, no matter how lofty the ideals they might espouse. One would hope Thelemites, in particular, would be more open minded than the average public, and specifically have greater respect for individual liberties, such as freedom of speech. But alas, I may be overly optimistic about the transformative value of my own belief system. For better or worse, people are people, after all, with the same basic virtues and vices, regardless of religious or ideological differences. To be sure, Thelemites are no exception, and perhaps this in inevitable. After all, it is written, “ye are brothers! As brothers fight ye! There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

Banishing Trolls

At this point, something should be added regarding liars, bullies and the those commonly referred to as “trolls.” First, as to liars, I can not help quoting Christopher Hyatt: “To lie is human, not getting caught is divine.” But really, to speak is to lie, for words are notoriously ineffective in expressing the realities they attempt to convey, some are just better at it than others. To me, it seems that the problem here has less to do with the liars so much as the believers. I think many people are far too quick to believe anything they are told, an attitude which has been systematically reinforced by traditional education. What we need now, especially in the age of unregulated internet research, is a healthy degree of skepticism, critical introspection and better “bullshit detectors.”

Next, I must make it clear that, along with the tendency to blindly believe whatever one is told, the tendency to bully and submit to being bullied, has deep roots in the psychic inheritance of humanity, not easily entangled. Personally, I think the issue of bullying is a serious epidemic, which needs to be understood psychologically, as a social pathology, not merely a character flaw. Human cultures have perpetuated the cycle of abuse for far too long, and dominance hierarchies are so thoroughly ingrained, that there are no simple solutions short of a systematic restructuring of society. Still, we might begin by spreading awareness, denouncing victim shaming, and offering better resources for the bullied and the bullies alike, since the bully is virtually always the victim of some form of abuse.

Lastly, we will consider the Troll, a peculiar creature, not fully human, not quite demon; yet in some sense this monster is a product of the propensity of people to lie and bully, and conversely, the tendency of others to let these people get away with it. To what degree, are we willing to tolerate this sort of behavior in our community? There is no easy answer here. Further, it is worth considering that the troll has a secret virtue, even if unintentional, which is that of the gadfly. Often, they succeed in provoking deep reflection upon issues they of which they clearly know nothing and do not care about in the least. All the same, moderators and Body Masters, would do well to discourage this sort of behavior, lest a forum or lodge, become overrun by trolls, and genuine conversation impossible.

The Problem of Intolerance

In “The Case Against Trump Supporters in the OTO,” IAO131 points out that, “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.” My opinion, is that this fact provides an argument in favor of securing genuine free speech, especially regarding criticism. I believe that if speech is in fact genuinely free, universally, all the supposed justifications for a right of hate speech will vanish into absolute absurdity.

IAO131 goes on to say, “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.”  From this point of view it seems to me that the real issue here is not “free speech” at all, but the limitation thereof by those who would try to reserve this freedom for a chosen segment of society, and deny it to anyone who might challenge them. Further, I believe this is especially significant for members of the O.T.O., and the broader community of Thelemites, who’s greatest strength is in their cultural diversity and philosophical fluidity, in my opinion.

In this light, I think IAO131 is fully justified in calling attention to the inconsistency of those who simultaneously proclaim to the Law of Liberty and support oppressive legislation, just as they are free to justify their beliefs and choices so far as possible. If they are ultimately persuaded that the two are mutually exclusive, it is for them to choose which path to take; if they are not so convinced, it is for each individual to decide their own course of action to the best of their ability and understanding.

Regardless, this discrepancy should never become grounds for discrimination within an Order which was designed to transcend nationality and politics. I for one would hate to see the O.T.O. or A.A. or any Thelemic Order ever try to ostracize members for their political affiliation, unless overtly antithetical to the principles of that Order..

The Problem of Censorship

Even though I vehemently wish for all the Neo-Fascist Chauvinist-Racist-Bigots and their sympathizers to stop spreading their hate, I remain concerned that by limiting the freedom of speech in fear of hate, we may be throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, and potentially condemning ourselves to future censorship for proclaiming ideas deemed politically incorrect by some sort of thought police. Perhaps I am too cynical, but I would not at all be surprised if Crowley’s works were among the first to be banned, not to mention the Socialists, Anarchists and some of the other more extreme philosophers, as well as a good deal of great art, music and literature. This would represent an incalculable loss to posterity.

Beware! Do not be too hasty to silence your enemies, for along with our enemies, we may silence our allies as well. For example, one might argue that the “The Law is For All” should be banned, since Crowley makes several remarks of blatant misogyny and ethnocentrism, that I along with most modern readers would find appalling. Yet censoring a philosopher poet like Crowley would be a crime against Philosophy, art and science, akin to the murder of Socrates. In a sense, censorship is worse than death; at least execution might promote a message by martyrdom, the destruction of great works is tantamount to historical suicide.

Just imagine the great deal of sublime insight that would have been lost, if the politicians of the past had succeeded in silencing, not merely murdering the philosophers, and prophets of old. Anyways, authors and poets require a great deal of license if their thought and words are to flow freely. It is in freedom that thought comes to fruition. Nor is it right to impose restrictions upon the past, for it would be a great injustice to history to misrepresent the prevalent barbarism of previous time periods, and try to cover up the folly of our ancestors, in an attempt to whitewash historical documents to fit the ideological interests of the present.

In this respect, I am unconvinced that censorship is the correct response to Crowley’s unforgivable chauvinism and racism.  Instead I advocate reasoned argument against the absurdity of all such bigotry, which we might easily demonstrate to be inconsistent with the Law of Liberty. These blemishes upon the sanctity of our Law might rightly be understood as accidental interpretations carried over from the ignorance of Crowley’s age.  Similarly, base expressions of prejudice can be found littered throughout the Works of many great prophets, philosophers and poets, who simultaneously expressed many profound thoughts that it would be a shame for posterity to lose simply due to the foolishness and indiscretion of the authors.

Thus I raise the question, to any who might be inclined to advocate censorship in fear of fanaticism: where will the line be drawn between eccentricity and extremism, by a moral majority who denounces anyone that challenges the mainstream political agenda as fanaticism? To be blunt, I do not trust the average voter, let alone the politicians who claim to represent us, to be able to tell the difference between a Fascist, an Anti-Fascist, a Communist, Socialist, Anarchist or Thelemite. Censorship is a slippery slope in the hands of an ignorant public, and I believe we should avoid restrictive legislation whenever possible.

The right to think as we will, to speak as we will and to write as we will, should not be given up so readily, certainly not among Thelemites who believe that the Law of Liberty is for All. Still, I suppose we might draw a hard line when it comes to the advocacy of violence, though we must be very clear what is meant here. One might reasonably argue that any who would deny another individual or group basic human rights, such as Life or the freedom of speech, thereby renounce their own enjoyment of those rights. Thus, those who seek to thwart the right of another to speak, thereby forfeit their own right of free speech.

Reconciling the Paradox

In his essay “On Duty,” Crowley writes: “The essence of crime is that it restricts the freedom of the individual outraged… It is then the common duty to prevent crime by segregating the criminal, and by the threat of reprisals; also, to teach the criminal that his acts, being analyzed, are contrary to his own True Will. (This may often be accomplished by taking from him the right which he has denied to others…) The rule is quite simple. He who violated any right declares magically that it does not exist; therefore it no longer does so, for him.” In thinking about this, Theorem 26 comes to mind: “Every man has a right, the right of self preservation, to fulfill himself to the utmost. Men of “criminal nature” are simply at issue with their true Wills. The murderer has the Will to Live; and his will to murder is a false will at variance with his true Will, since he risks death at the hands of Society by obeying his criminal impulse.” (Magick in Theory and Practice) From this point of view we might reconcile the paradox, between our commitment to liberty and the necessity of restricting any who might seek to thwart the rights of another.

As IAO131 points out, the great philosopher “Karl Popper identified what is known as “the paradox of tolerance” 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… It should be remarked that Aleister Crowley himself essentially wrote about this same paradox several decades before Popper.” Popper presents the problem like this: “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.” This of course merely expands upon an idea, Crowley succinctly summarized as such: “We are infinitely tolerant, save of intolerance.

So, in this sense I agree with Karl Popper that, “We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.” (The Open Society and Its Enemies)  I can not help but recognize that the incitement to violence should be as illegal as the violent act itself. All the same, I must as add, that as much as I follow Popper’s argument, and agree with the basic sentiment of his “paradox of tolerance,” I still remain unconvinced about the efficacy, or the necessity, of censorship in counteracting intolerance.

In fact, Karl Popper is careful to be clear that it is only justifiable to be intolerant of those who threaten violence, not merely those advocate regressive ideologies, but unfortunately many of his followers miss the point. Thus Popper clarifies: “In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.” This no doubt represents the extreme case; otherwise, it seems that people in an open society should be allowed to speak their minds freely; that ignorance should, as far as possible, be combated intellectually rather than legally, or by force.

The Limits of Liberty

In this light, I do not deny that we must allow limits upon certain liberties in order to enable greater freedoms, and the freedom of expression is no exception. Still, I personally am inclined to believe that these limitations should themselves be limited as far as possible. Which is to say, I think that only the most unambiguously antisocial propaganda, aimed directly at violating the rights of others, should be deemed worthy of censorship, and this with a great deal of criticism and justification. Ultimately, I am inclined to agree that the incitement to violence, or other anti-social behavior, may be subject to the same laws as those who enact the crime itself; but it must be remembered that rarely are the motivations and consequences of expression so direct.

Of course, the provocation of genocide or lesser hate crimes are certainly extreme cases, and exceptions to the general rule. “Hard cases make bad law,” as Crowley repeats the old legal maxim in the “Law is for All.” More often than not, people only wish to censor those ideas which offend their sensibilities.  In general, the desire to silence the voice of opposing viewpoints, aside from the most hostile call for persecution or terrorism, seems to be at best a symptom of fear. Still, more often than not, this desire is merely evidence of a fragile ego, unable to appreciate the value of contradiction. Either way, I fail to comprehend how such an inclination to suppress another could be entertained by one genuinely questing for enlightenment, let alone one who believes in the power of truth to overcome falsehood, much less a Thelemite.

I should be clear that I do not intend to imply we have any responsibility to provide a platform for the perpetuation of hate speech, or any other form of ignorance or hostility. Nor would I ever condemn the banning of any individual who will not respect the parameters set forth by any particular forum or Order, as such decisions are rightly left to the discretion of the moderators and masters. As Ash93 says, “Tolerance isn’t about accepting bad behavior; it is about celebrating our sovereign individuality. Tolerance doesn’t mean we avoid conflict at all costs, it means we fight when necessary with respect and good faith.”

Thus, no one has any obligation to cooperate with their enemies; to the contrary, I believe everyone has a responsibility to speak out against that which they find abhorrent. Further, I assert that Thelemites above all, as self proclaimed Soldiers of Freedom, have a fraternal obligation to fight against Tyranny, in all forms, wherever it may be found. In this sense, I insist that advocacy of Free Speech implies more than mere passive receptivity of opposing viewpoints; it requires dynamic debate, at the very least, if not an agitation and political protest. To my understanding, the appropriate response to fascism is not censorship, bust activism.

A Philosophy of Freedom

After all that, I must confess, I am somewhat unsatisfied with my position. I remain concerned about potential abuse of free speech, not just by those who threaten violence, not just by Neo-Nazis and their sympathizers, but by any who might utilize the word to hurt another, whether the harm be physical, financial, social, emotional, mental or any other way. I any such case, I am inclined to elevate the rights the abused over that of the abuser, for as Crowley made abundantly clear, those who would abuse the rights of another, forfeit those rights for themselves. Still, I am uncertain where to set the limit.

In any case, all who might attempt to harass, threaten, slander or unjustly defame another, should themselves be subject to the full force of social and intellectual criticism. This is to say that I believe the advocacy of free speech requires a commitment to speak out against injustice wherever it arises. Further, mere speech is not enough to combat great injustices, which require decisive actions, including social organization and civil protest. Of course, in the most extreme cases force might prove necessary, as those resolved to thwart the Life and Liberty of others clearly deserve the fate of having their own Liberty, even their Life, taken for them.

In the end, this letter was written to advocate the freedom of speech as an inherently Thelemic ideal. My primary concern is the potential limitation of any controversial opinion, such as those expressed by Aleister Crowley, in fear of the most extremist positions, such as Neo-Nazism. It seems to me, as I mentioned earlier, that Thelemites are just as likely to be censored as Fascists or Anti-Fascists, Socialists and Anarchists, under the same standards, unless the limits of speech are very carefully set to discriminate against only the most extreme cases, specifically those explicitly provoking aggression.

But be wary, oh Solder of Freedom, for even according to this standard, Liber OZ could easily come under attack if misunderstood as militant extremist propaganda, when it asserts that “Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights.”

In short, this is the essence of the thesis I have attempted to formulate: I believe that the freedoms of thought and expression are essential to the promulgation of the Law of Liberty, known by the few as Thelema, and that Thelemites should not be so quick to give up these freedoms, for themselves or others, out of fear of the opponents of Liberty. Again, I will not deny outright that there may be certain circumstances where an imposition of limitations upon expression might prove inevitable, but I still feel that Free Speech needs to be defended as an essential human right, and an inherently Thelemic virtue.

By now it should be abundantly clear that I am not advocating hate speech. Quite the opposite, I am denouncing hate in all forms! Contrary to popular opinion, the advocacy of free speech does not equate to Nazi sympathy. My point is essentially that the use of fascist methods, like the attempt to silence opposing viewpoints by any form of coercion, is not the right way to combat the fascist element in our society. It simply is not “the proper kind and degree of Force in the proper manner, through the proper medium to the proper object,” (Magick in Theory and Practice) at least in my opinion.

Post Script

As this letter was pieced together from disconnected discussions – a series of meditations upon free speech in Thelema – I fear it may be disjointed, tedious and long-winded. I had originally intended to edit it down to a more moderate length and cohesive structure, but as I have since moved on to more compelling projects, I decided to publish it as it is. Again, this letter only presents my personal opinions, thoughts and reflections. I invite anyone so inspired to argue for or against any of the points here; as in the end, I recognizes this as but one side (at best a few sides) of an open-ended dialog.

“We are infinitely tolerant, save of intolerance.”

Crowley, The Law is for All

Love is the law, love under will.

Sources

Ash93. The Revival of Tolerance.

Chomsky, Noam. Manufacturing Consent.

Crowley, Aleister. Confessions.

Crowley, Aleister. Duty.

Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All.

Crowley, Aleister. Liber OZ.

Crowley, Aleister. Magick in Theory and Practice.

IAO131. The Case Against Trump Supporters in the OTO.

Hyatt, Christopher. To Lie is Human: Not Getting Caught is Divine.

Locke, John. Letter Concerning Toleration.

Mill, John. On Liberty.

Popper, Karl. The Open Society and its Enemies.

Voltaire. Treatise on Tolerance.


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4 thoughts on “A Letter Concerning the Limits of Tolerance & Freedom of Speech in Thelema

    1. “on the low men trample in the fierce lust of your pride, in the day of your wrath.“ I think what Crowley actually meant here is “trans rights are human rights”

  1. I think you totally misunderstand why people say that this level of free-speech advocacy is equivalent to Neo-Nazi sympathizing. These are not people that seek out rational discourse. They abuse the free speech given to them with dogwhistles, and they undermine free speech itself at every turn they can. It’s effective, too. It’s why Hitler and Mussolini were able to successfully win their democratic elections, and why Donald Trump (a palingenetic ultranationalist, i.e., a fascist) won the 2016 American presidential election.

    They are not looking for a debate; they are looking for people who are prejudiced beyond reason and wanting to act on their hate, and have set up complex alt-right pipelines that can’t be justifiably broken down in a society that values free speech. Which means we have a machine that’s just making Nazis and can’t be argued with, because again, they’re not looking for rational argument. They are finding ways to feed their anger and hate until they eventually pop.

    This is preventable. Shutdown the pipeline and their numbers will dwindle. We don’t have to wait until somebody goes down the entire pipeline and becomes a mass shooter, we can stop them from going down that road entirely. It has nothing to do with shutting down people that we “disagree with” or misplaced fear. People are actually being killed over this. Your “free speech” is murder and suppression by those who game the broken system.

    I also think the Law of Thelema is not necessarily Libertarian, especially given Crowley’s behavior, speech, and institutitions. He created and maintained hierarchical mystery schools with the same format that Scientology would adopt. Viewing him as a Libertarian champion seems… odd.

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